“The only way to start working towards women development in our society is to first ensure that they are treated as equal individuals,” artist Sheema Kirmani said on Tuesday.
She was addressing an audience at a dialogue event called Spotlight on Women’s Health: Innovative Ways of Increasing Awareness through the Media organised by the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH) and Gawaahi, a non-government organisation that documents cases of abuse and survival.
The discussion on Tuesday focused on a medical condition called obstetric fistula. An obstetric fistula causes uncontrolled discharge of urine or feces through vagina.
Its causes include early marriage, malnutrition, old-age pregnancy, violence and labour in inadequate care.
Kirmani, who showcased a short film about a woman suffering from obstetric fistula, said that many doctors had told her that cultural and theatrical activities had an immense impact on awareness of medical issues in a society. Her film also touched on issues of gender bias, child marriage, lack of awareness regarding parenthood planning and social issues pertaining to the disease.
Naveen Naqvi, the Gawaahi executive director, screened two short films on street harassment. The short films depicted the victim’s frustration at being objectified.
Anjum Rashid from Geo TV proposed that a more commercial product should be developed for mass media.
Dr Sher Shah Syed, an obstetrician gynecologist, said that according to a World Health Organisation estimate, two to three million women in developing countries suffered from obstetric fistula. He said there were approximately a million new cases every year.
Dr Izhar from the Pakistan Medical Association said there was a need to understand the social stigma resulting from foul odour, feeling of un-cleanliness and social rejection.
He said women suffering from this condition were abandoned by their spouses. He also highlighted the mental trauma attached to the disease saying that it could cause long term effects on the mind and lives of the affected.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2011.