Pakistani women are resilient. Despite everything that comes their way, they continue to raise their voice. Sometimes, using the power of pen or by gathering in huge numbers and making loud chants at marches and at other times, through wit and humour.
Journalist, media strategist and trainer Sahar Habib Ghazi who runs 2030Mama recently used her platform to raise her voice about how hard it is for women to be independent in Pakistani society.
A platform that was made six months ago to experiment issue-based storytelling and figure out how she can connect in deeper ways with audience, 2030Mama focuses on subjects like feminism, decolonisation, and unpacking toxic desi parenting styles (codependency, lack of boundaries, control, and assigned gender roles).
“In Pakistan, female independence is pure resistance. We aren’t built for an adult with their own dreams, a woman with her own goals and a parent nurturing a child to make their own choices”, she captions a humorous and enlightening short video that shows Sahar in eight convincing and different avatars enacting scenes that show the sad reality of women’s independence, or lack thereof, in the country.
Her video highlights that from signing a marriage contract (nikkah) to other simple tasks like getting an ID card or bank account, all require a male relative’s presence because Pakistan doesn’t legally acknowledge that an independent woman can exist. In one and a half minute, Sahar sums up Pakistani women’s codependency on men.
It was inevitable that a video like this would resonate with women but what’s most interesting is that it resonated with male audiences too and 2030Mama’s male follower count went up after the video.
Perhaps this shows that men agree to the lack of autonomy that exists for women in the country and that itself is a step forward; what we now need is for them to become allies in this advocacy to further the cause.
Sahar, who is a strong believer that humour is an effective tool for people to retain information and even change behaviour, shared that her motivation to make the video was her own experience as a financially independent married woman trying to navigate our patriarchal banking, NADRA, and marriage system.
“Pakistan has changed a lot in the last two decades, we have a lot more women going to college and a lot more women working with the ability to be financially dependent yet our systems continue to lock us in with a male decision maker”.
She’s right when she says that women have accepted this for too long and it is high time things change.
“I hope the video will help folks’ question how absurd the status quo is. We need rules and laws that work for all segments of our society”.
What’s most interesting about 2030Mama is that Sahar has been a journalist for 15 years, having worked in radio, TV, print and digital and now wants to use this platform to break through editorial confines, create innovative messages and connect with audiences directly.
“The content I produce is primarily comedy videos and text-based reading experiences called Storytimes that happen twice a week and are saved in my Highlights. My growth is all organic and I am surprised at the level of retention and engagement I’ve received,” she tells Images.
From working in radio in Washington D.C to reporting for The New York Times in Pakistan, doing news shows, launching channels, producing content for TV and working at Global Voices in San Francisco as a managing editor where she helped produce digital reporting from 150 countries in 30 languages, Sahar has done it all and now felt the need to create content without editorial guidelines controlling her.
“I moved back to Pakistan two years ago, and didn’t really see an organisation that had the bones to foster the kind of innovation I wanted, and I didn’t understand why we don’t have audiences driving innovation in Pakistan.
Then I started noticing how some of the boldest issues in Pakistan were being discussed on Instagram. 2030Mama was born out of my desire to connect deeper with Pakistani audiences while telling stories that I think need to be told”.
Her friends were surprised at how much time and effort goes into the reporting of her text-based stories.
“They tell me you can do this for a newspaper or magazine or news site and get paid but I’m grateful I can experiment on this platform and grow purely through the interaction of my creative process and build a community that connects with my storytelling”.
Currently, Sahar works as an investigative editor for a Boston-based outlet called FIRE, which gives her the financial independence to create quality content for 2030Mama a few times a week.
She has also performed stand up with Auratnaak about being on the later side of 30s, moving from San Fransisco to Karachi, and competing with WhatsApp forwards as a journalist. For everyone who enjoyed this video, watch 2030Mama for more hot takes and critiques of desi culture; it's guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.