In this new series, Green Box invites changemakers for sustainabilitea with co-founder Mohsen Gul. Mohsen poses candid questions about their motivations, experiences and hurdles. Our next guest is Ramma Shahid Cheema, founder of a media and advocacy campaign ‘Beti (Daughter)’ targeting misogyny and gender discrimination rooted in the cultural system in Pakistan.
Mo: Why Beti? What is so important to highlight about young girls and women in Pakistan?
Ramma: I wish I could say that things have changed and more young girls and women are treated fairly and empowered. However, that is not the case. It is imperative that we change things because the majority of Pakistan is females yet very few are seen as active citizens. Their rights are taken away and they are pressurised to give up their dreams. Beti means daughter in Urdu language. For me it’s such a beautiful relation and with this name I want to invoke care into the hearts and minds of people in Pakistan for young girls and women. I know the name holds certain emotions for people and perhaps it would help change their behaviours.
Mo: How did you come up with the idea of this campaign?
Ramma: Belonging from Chichawatni (Pakistan), I noticed misogyny from a very young age. Growing up I realized that young girls and women like me were never involved in decision-making. Our voices were always hushed by the male-dominated society, which led to the cultivation of gender inequality. I internalized misogyny and thought of myself as a lesser species. However, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and went through infertility for 9 years. I had no choice but to work and my various working experiences gave me exposure and confidence. I knew I wanted to do something to change behaviours and in the last few months it became clear. I felt I was ready and I launched Beti.
Mo: Tell us more about the documentary ‘Where have all the daughters gone?’ What inspired this title?
Ramma: I suppose the never decreasing rates of female infanticide in Pakistan. The fact that young girls are still conditioned to think they are inferior.
Mo: What are some of the key challenges you have faced in launching this campaign? Are some of these challenges gendered?
Ramma: In all honesty women and men both encourage the unfair treatment. It is so embedded in the culture and their social practices that they never challenge it. Furthermore, I constantly get verbally abused and harassed for talking about Beti.
Mo: How are you leveraging partnerships on grassroots level for action?
Ramma: I am reaching out to the government and private educational institutions to hold interactive workshops. I am also curating content for social media and I hope that more and more people can view it and have access to it.
Mo: Is this a passion project for you or you wish to scale it up in Pakistan?
Ramma: I wish to take this forward and even take it Internationally. I have received similar notes of empathy from Canada, UK, India, UAE after they viewed my short film. Most women and young girls reach out to me from all over the world saying that they can draw similarities to the content shared on Beti.
Mo: What’s next for ‘Beti’? How can young men and women of Pakistan help your work?
Ramma: I desperately need all the help I can get. The message and call to action needs to be hammered because we as humans have very short memories. I do not have the capacity to keep it going in a single handed manner. I would greatly appreciate more collaboration, volunteers and awareness opportunities to share stories of so many daughters from not just Pakistan but all over the world.
Mo: Please add anything else you wish to say.
Ramma: My story of fighting against misogyny is not just mine. It happens in India, Bangladesh, Arab countries and so many more. The birth of female babies is still considered a financial and social burden. Family units are pressurised to keep having children until they have produced a son. Men and women are conditioned to think that male children are an asset and their preference is very common. The notion of honor and dishonor is still attached only to women and girls.
During the years 2000 to 2014, 1.2 million sex-selective abortions took place in Pakistan. The late humanitarian and philanthropist, Abdul Sattar Edhi, introduced cradles outside all his centers so that unwanted infants would not be thrown into dumpsters. Sadly 95% of babies abandoned in the cradles are baby girls. No data is available to assess its real impact. Women have no reproductive rights. We collectively have to challenge this.
Please support by liking and sharing ‘Beti’ on social media: