Wheels of change: Activist seeks women’s empowerment through cycling

KHALIDA NIAZ

PESHAWAR: The aim of Female Cycling Rally was to empower women in the province, said Zartasha Jamal, one of the organizers of the rally that was cancelled after religious parties’ workers launched a campaign against it in January, this year.

Jamal while talking with TNN added that its purpose also to express solidarity with those women, who go to schools and work on cycle despite the routine harassment in the streets. Zartasha Jamal, a resident of Khyber district, is running a non-government organization since 2012 with the aim to empower the women and work for the rights of transgender, the most oppressed segment of our society. “I know a girl who used to go to school on cycle but she is subjected to mockery and was harassed by public,” said Jamal.

Therefore, she said, it was decided to arrange a women cycling rally in the city. “Over 100 women have registered themselves with the organization to participate in the rally,” Zartasha revealed. Jamal revealed that after the news of the rally was published in the media, workers of some political parties and religious clerks started a campaign against it, due to which the district administration asked to postpone the rally, due to security concerns.

Zartasha said that she has also registered a case in the Peshawar high court contending the administration duty is to provide protection to the women instead of cancelling it due to security threats. Talking about her other plans for the uplift of women in tribal districts, Zartasha said, she is working on a number of projects in health, education and women entrepreneurship.

She said that since the tribal women are not allowed to work outside the home, therefore, she has decided to start such projects where they are able to work from home. The social activist maintained that women in tribal districts are facing a lot of problems however; the health issue is more pressing. She added that there are no lady doctors available while men do not allow women to be provided healthcare by a male doctor. Therefore, she added, besides education, she wants to work on providing the best healthcare facilities to the women of tribal districts.

Talking about girls education in the tribal districts, Zartasha said that not only girls are not allowed to go outside for education, but even if they are allowed, there are no proper education facilities where they could get a proper education. Due to which the majority of girls remain deprived of education. “The tribal area lacks education institution for girls,” she said. “I have recently visited the area, there is a severe lack of medal schools in tribal areas.”

Talking about the natural beauty of tribal areas of the province, Zartasha said that the area has never been explored by even the people of the country, she expressed the need the students from the rest of the country should help to visit the tribal districts.  This will also be helpful in enhancing the image of the area which was tarnished by decades of militancy.

“Tribal people have been kept deprived of their rights,” said Zartasha. “Until girls are not properly educated, they will have no awareness of their rights.”She said that girls are not even asked about her consent as the elder of the family arrange her marriage. She is just informed that she is now the wife that man and now only her funeral will come out from his home.

She said that despite her work for other rights, she gives proper time to her family and takes the best care of her children rights. She is of the view that after getting proper education, a woman able to run her house in proper manner and gives proper time to her home along with her job.

Talking about her own education and challenges, Zartasha said that she has also faced a number of problems as her family was not ready to allow her to get higher education. She revealed that after she completed a bachelor degree, her family wanted her to stop further education. But she has raised voice for her rights and her father has extended all the support due to which she not only secure higher education but also did job for 16 years and now she is running her own organization for the rights of other women.

She has received complete support from her father and now her husband is very supportive, but her family members still create problems for her. “When my family members see me on social media, they even refused to accept us as a member of the family,” said Zartasha. “My brothers also don’t want me to work outside, but if a woman wants to do something, no one can stop her.”

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