“If I just wanted to relax and sit on the sidelines, I wouldn’t have joined politics,” says Kanwal Noman confidently.
And confident she has a right to be. As a former actress, and now an MPA for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), she is used to basking in the spotlight.
However, the spotlight is not at all why she joined politics almost six years ago; she wanted to, and still wants to, make an impact on a broader level.
Her unwavering voice, strong beliefs and evident determination speak louder than her words.
It’s a man’s world
Noman is unequivocal about the importance of working for greater women’s rights. She was provided a ticket on reserved seat and stresses how difficult it is for independent women to run unless they are from big families or have powerful backing.
“Men are very intelligent beings, they are able to judge a woman instantaneously,” she claims. “I have always been a bold woman. Whether in showbiz or politics, I have never allowed anyone to bother me.”
She expresses disappointment over the failed implementation of the laws protecting the rights of women, especially working women, during the previous tenure.
“Women work more than men. They not only have to work outside the house, but they also have to come home and take care of the families,” she explains. “Laws must be implemented so that no person can harass or bother any woman. If someone does, there should be a safe place, and concrete processes at work, for women to complain and get justice.”
In this vein, Noman highlights the significance to address the question of violence against women, such as victims of acid attacks and karo kari, and to also liberate those who spend their entire lives working in brick kilns to pay off unending loans.
“These women work day and night, but have no security and no rights. We have to liberate them from this insecurity,” she says determinedly.
Change in the offing
Despite the skewed workings of a deeply patriarchal society, Noman is certain that things are changing, especially within political parties that traditionally did not cater to women wanting to run in the elections. Now, according to her, PML-N is planning to award tickets to women to contest in the next tenure.
“In the next elections, those women who want to run and have done work in their fields will be given tickets,” she says. “The idea is to give party support to competent women who are not financially or familialy strong.”
Although Noman acknowledges that it is a male-dominated society, she asks rhetorically which field, which sector does not boast of a strong female presence.
“They [the women] have made it this far,” she states. “Our goal is to make their presence stronger.”
Meant to be
For Noman, this move into politics isn’t a simple fluke, as it may seem at first glance.
She was a television actress at a time when Pakistani dramas were in a league of their own. According to her, she chose the medium because dramas provided a social commentary, and were rooted in deep issues prevalent across the country.
Her approach to both acting and politics has been uncompromising, built on hard work. She is not afraid of getting her hands dirty, and aspires to help others above all else.
“People thought I would just join the culture wing and go home,” she says, with a slight smile. “But I joined the women’s wing. Culture is a part of me, and I will always fight for it, but want to do something for the masses.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2013.