DEVOTION AND DEFIANCE by Humaira Awais Shahid


My Fight for Women and the Poor in Pakistan
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A poignant story of a happy partnership that encouraged one Pakistani woman to face her oppressors.

Raised in the tolerant, diverse country of Kuwait to a Pakistani family of middle-class professionals, the author moved to Lahore for the first time in 1985 and felt the shackles of religious restrictions. The Kuwaiti war left the family bereft of her beloved uncle, and the author turned inward, becoming a “serious and spiritual young woman” more interested in her literary studies than in getting married. Working at the Imperial College of Business Studies in Lahore, she met a business student from a prominent newspaper family, Ednan Awais Shahid, and they fell in love and married in 1996; he admired her plucky, outspoken side, as did Ednan’s father, who eventually convinced her that taking over the women’s section of his popular newspaper, the Daily Khabrain, would do more to help the plight of women in Pakistan than her teaching could. The author transformed the pages into a forum to expose horrendous stories of oppression and poverty in the largely tribal, illiterate society of Pakistan—e.g., tales of organ selling, gang rape, honor killings, and acid and stove burnings. It soon became clear to the crusading journalist that she lived in two countries—rich and poor, urban and rural—that could have inhabited two different centuries. Through meeting the rich and powerful friends of her father-in-law at the family dinner table, she was encouraged to become one of the members of the “proportional representation” in the Punjab parliament (17 percent of seats reserved for women, as proposed by President General Musharraf in 2002), where, despite being jeered and having her microphone often switched off, she advocated for criminalizing acid attacks and banning private moneylending. Her marriage to an understanding, loving Ednan forms the core of this deeply felt narrative.

Although Shahid benefited professionally from her patriarchal ties, she admirably used them for the greater good.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-393-08148-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2014


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