Resilient Women of the South-Asian World

Photo and henna by Manahil Bandukwala


By Manahil Bandukwala

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls” – Malala Yousafzai

She’s a girl celebrated as a hero internationally–not so much in her own country. Is it the envy of not being the one to bring fame to Pakistan? But opposing her is opposing the advancement of a country. She’s bringing attention to the fact that education is the most important thing you can give a person–-specifically to women—in a country where this is squashed so viciously. That amount of bravery doesn’t exist in nearly enough people. She uses the voice she has to speak to the ears that listen. She did it.

“Can angels lay spine to spine? If not, how they must envy us humans.” – Kamila Shamsie

When one thinks of authors from Pakistan, no doubt Kamila Shamsie is the first to come to mind. Whether you’re a fan of her writing or not, there is no doubt that this Pakistani woman made a name as a famous international author. Imagine the surprise at finding Burnt Shadows and Kartography in a small library in Mississauga, and A God in Every Stone in a second-hand bookstore around the corner from Carleton. She did it.

“This is what happens when determined women get together” – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Challenging the roles that restrict women, and fighting out of them, this woman won Pakistan its first two Oscars in Saving Face and A Girl In the River: The Price of Forgiveness. Going into dangerous situations and showing the truth is Obaid-Chinoy’s way. She’s telling the stories that people don’t want to hear about acid attacks and honour killings. Most importantly, she’s actually making a tangible impact through the power of film. How many people can say they did that with the humility and selflessness that she did? She did it.

“We all move forward when we recognize how resilient and striking the women around us are” – Rupi Kaur

The discovery of a poet who speaks about internalized misogyny and healing and immigration and racism was a breath of fresh air. There were words for women who were taught to see other women as competition. There were words for people who were broken to the point they no longer knew how to care. “I am not the whiskey you want, I am the water you need,” she writes. She is a South-Asian immigrant who uses poetry to challenge colonialism. When the British took over the Indian subcontinent and imposed the English language, there were generations of South-Asians disconnected from a rich cultural past. By never using upper-case letters in her poetry, Kaur imitates the Punjabi script, and holds on to her heritage. She did it.

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