The theme of “Empowering Rural Women and Girls” hit close to home for me. About six months ago I took a trip to my Motherland, a small village in Pakistan. I was excited to experience the village life and to visit loved ones after 16 long years. Being from the States I knew I was privileged to an education and opportunities that helped inspire an attitude of positive social change in me. I had to be mindful of my privileges as I observed and lived among the village folks, many of whom were my kin from my childhood memories.
Consultation Day 62 touched upon topics that played mini-flashbacks in my head. I would listen to the speakers and panellists talk about conditions, environments, and challenges women in rural settings faced. The talking points drew parallels to what I had witnessed in my motherland some months ago. The lack of information, relying on male relatives to access information/resources, challenges to gaining land ownership, a poor sewer system, heaps of garbage unsystematically disposed of on the outskirts of the village. I remember asking my father what it would take to get an underground sewer system installed in our village. Sure enough, I would have to gather the resources and organize with the male relatives. I remember thinking how the lives of the village residents would change dramatically from such a project, but only the men would be consulted about it. Where are the women’s voices?
Interestingly enough, there were no women from a Pakistani village on any of the Consultation Day panels, yet the stories they shared and the issues they faced resembled those I witnessed in my own village. One key difference I noticed in the stories and remarks I heard on Consultation Day and witnessed in my own village was the attitude and motivation to bring about change. The determination and motivation present during Consultation Day were not present among the women I spent three weeks of my summer with. Consultation Day 62 had me raking my brain trying to figure out how to reach women living in rural environments. How can we gain their trust and build their inspiration so that they can take steps to empower themselves and their communities?