Defying hostile mindsets, Shad Begum fights on

Published: March 8, 2013
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Shad Begum at the Women of Courage Award ceremony, flanked by US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in 2012. PHOTO: COURTESY SHAD BEGUM

Shad Begum at the Women of Courage Award ceremony, flanked by US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in 2012. PHOTO: COURTESY SHAD BEGUM

Shad Begum at the Women of Courage Award ceremony, flanked by US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in 2012. PHOTO: COURTESY SHAD BEGUM Shad Begum at the Women of Courage Award ceremony, flanked by US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in 2012. PHOTO: COURTESY SHAD BEGUM
PESHAWAR: 

As Shad Begum collected her Women of Courage Award from the hands of US First Lady Michelle Obama in 2012, many at the ceremony were stunned to note that a woman from ‘conservative and terror-plagued’ Lower Dir could be worthy of such prestige.

Running a training institute for the handicapped in the Malakand division since 1994, the activist cum entrepreneur imparts technical training to people with disabilities. Her services were recognised globally on International Women’s Day last year.

“People wondered how a woman from this area could win such a big award, as I belong to a place where women are kept confined to their homes,” says Shad. “Many were apprehensive about the kind of dressing I would do for the award ceremony – thankfully I chose to stick to my cultural values.”

Begum revealed that she was questioned about the award again and again. Many were extremely cynical of the achievement – given the social conditions of the area she belonged to. “I proudly told them that brave people don’t only hail from rich and developed countries. A poor village can also have such people,” she added.

The dedicated community worker is greatly concerned about Pakistan’s global image. “This country is only remembered for war,” she says. “People forget that Pakistan has some very brave women.”

Gaining ground

On the eve of International Women’s Day, Begum, in her message said that Pakistan’s women should work to make themselves financially independent rather than seeking support from others. “They shouldn’t depend on jobs or incentives from the government, but should try to create their own mini businesses.”

Speaking of her organisation, Begum told The Express Tribune that the Association for Behavior and Knowledge Transformation is a nationally and internationally recognised, non-governmental organisation which is struggling to improve the lives of underdeveloped and vulnerable communities with special focus on women, youth and children in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“The society needs to come out of a conservative mindset and encourage education for women as no religion bans a woman from doing so,” says Shad, while discussing her effective, far-reaching efforts.

As an entrepreneur who also campaigns for women’s rights, she revealed that she had received threats for her activism.

However, treading the path the Begum trod is no mean feat: “I am undeterred and my conscience didn’t allow me to step back after this long struggle,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • RizwanKhan
    Mar 8, 2013 - 10:18AM

    Really impressed by the dress of the lady. You sure have a very strong personality. MashAllah, may Allah bless you & your family.

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  • SaimaLuqman
    Mar 8, 2013 - 11:46AM

    @ Rizwan Khan: I wish you could look at her work and feel proud instead of looking at how she is dressed… which by the way is none of your business.

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  • Tch tch
    Mar 8, 2013 - 1:14PM

    Any solid figure, audit of her real achievements….Most of the NGO turn out to be bogus when looked into

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Mar 8, 2013 - 6:01PM

    Great woman indeed.

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  • kinza
    Mar 8, 2013 - 6:19PM

    Makes one feel proud of beinga woman, moreover a Pakistani woman (for a change)

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  • Begum Zainub Hamidullah
    Mar 9, 2013 - 1:42AM

    @ Rizwan Khan: I agree with @SaimaLuqman wish the males in Pakistani society would view their female counterparts for their acheviments not their style of dress, when do Pakistani women do that and for @Tch tch nice to know of negative comments not far behind!

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  • Siddique Malik
    Mar 9, 2013 - 1:48AM

    Dear Ms. Shad Begum,
    You say, “Many were apprehensive about the kind of dressing I would do for the award ceremony – thankfully I chose to stick to my cultural values.” I am glad that you did that. Why were you even thinking of switching just for the sake of the ceremony? Had you done that, in my humble opinion, you would no longer have deserved the award. America does not care who wears what. I am sure there was absolutely no reduction in the warmth with which our First lady and our then Secretary of State treated you. The wife of President Morsi of Egypt wears a head-to-toe outfit. When her husband was elected president, some people in Egypt wondered what she would wear if she accompanied her husband on a state visit to the White House. I don’t even understand why some of her compatriots are wondering about that. When and if she comes to the White House, I can assure you, she will be treated with the respect that the spouse of any democratically elected head of state deserves at the White House. Her attire might be an issue for some of her compatriots, but America does not care. It’s her personal matter. We Americans judge a foreign leader on how he/she upholds the basic tenets of freedom and democracy and his/her attire or that of his/her spouse never enter our calculus. By the way, the outfit you wore for your visit to the ceremony is no stranger to America. Not only is America diverse, America worships diversity.
    Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

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  • fasi
    Mar 9, 2013 - 3:15AM

    Why does every person on ET comment on the comment above and not the article.

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  • Siddique Malik
    Mar 9, 2013 - 6:17AM

    @fasi:
    You too just commented on other people’s comments and not the article.
    Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

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