Pakistani lawyer Jalila Haider makes it to BBC 100 Women 2019

Published: October 16, 2019
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Jalila Haider specialises in defending women’s rights and provides free legal services to women in poverty. PHOTO: FILE

Jalila Haider specialises in defending women’s rights and provides free legal services to women in poverty. PHOTO: FILE

QUETTA: One of Pakistan’s human rights lawyers, Jalila Haider, has made it to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) distinguished list of 100 most inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2019.

Haider specialises in defending women’s rights in Pakistan and provides free legal services to impoverished women.

She is the founder of ‘We the Humans’, a non-profit organisation working with local communities to provide opportunities for vulnerable women and children. She is the first female lawyer from the persecuted Hazara community and, in 2018, had gone on a hunger strike to demand protection for it.

Haider shared her joy and gratitude on being given the honour on social media.

“Wow, this is an honour for me that I am among the BBC’s 100 women list for 2019 from Pakistan. I also want to congratulate Parveen Ahanger who is also on the list. More power to the brave women of Kashmir,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Looking back into the past leads to the realisation that the entire politics of conflict, war and destruction is interconnected with patriarchy. Now is the time that the world should accept the future as female; [women] are the symbol of peace, fertility, creation and coexistence. Let the women lead,” Haider was quoted by the BBC as saying.

In a conversation with ‘The Express Tribune’, the Quetta-based human rights activist has termed it a matter of great pride for her to have been included in the list, adding that people also had greater expectations of her now.

She said she would continue the struggle for which she had been honoured, adding “This struggle was not mine alone. I had a lot of support from people around me. One cannot, therefore, call it the struggle of an individual”.

Besides her supporters, she also credited women and marginalized communities for helping in her struggle.

She said she couldn’t say exactly which one of her struggles had resulted in her recognition but her guess was that it was for her work for the rights of women, labourers and marginalized communities.

Haider said that, being a member of the Hazara community, she had been pressured by both state and non-state actors to stop her work many times in the past. However, she said, she had continued her struggle in the face of threats which she said should not be our weakness but our strength.

She further said that, rather than thinking big, she believed in focusing on small issues happening around us, adding that it was very important to have a bond with human beings, feel their worries and fight a war for their survival.

Talking about the women of the Hazara community, she said they, much like the women of other marginalized communities, had been oppressed and pledged to fight for their liberty.

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