Tag Archives: International Womens Day

Sheema gi

On this International Women’s day, I want to introduce you to an amazing woman that I am honored to call my friend.

Sheema Kermani, dancer, theatre director and activist from Karachi, Pakistan.


She lives in a country where women’s rights still have a long way to go. Where some laws might be changing slowly in favor of equal rights, but where implementing these laws is not really happening yet.

She lives in a place where people still look down upon the art of dancing, deemed as unislamic and improper.

All that doesn’t stop Sheema, who is a true force of energy, which is needed to keep motivated in advocating change that isn’t effecting in immediate results. She teaches the Indian classical dance art like Bharatanatyam and Odissi to young women and uses theatre to bring messages of equal rights, violence against women, rape etc to villages all over Pakistan where the majority of the people can’t even read or write.

In an interview with her she also says this: ‘The arts and the women of Pakistan have been the two major victims of Zia’s policies. The state introduced legal and social forms of control over women as part of its campaign of suppression and made women’s sexuality their business. State forces were preoccupied with women’s dress, their movements, their sexuality and their very presence in public spaces. In the name of religion, laws like the “Hudood Ordinances”, “Qisas”, “Diyat” and “Blasphemy Laws” were introduced and are prime examples of laws that devalue women, arts and humanity. The very first programme that was banned on PTV by Gen. Zia ul Haq was ‘Payal,’ a dance programme. But as it happens with anything that is banned, people always find a way to circumvent it. We do not announce our institution as a dance academy. We offer training in dance but call it movement classes. I run Tehrik-e-Niswan and we use dance as a movement for theatre of protest.’

Women like Sheema are an inspiration to me. They breathe energy and power. The power of women.

So… happy women’s day Sheema. Thank you for being a beautiful part of my life.


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International Women’s Day 2013

As you all will be very aware by now, today is International Women’s Day. And this year’s global theme is that on violence against women.

The numbers and figures are staggering…

Worldwide today:

  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  • Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  • Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18…

In my work I’ve focussed on some of these issues and I’m committed to continue to do so in the future… It’s often hard, the stories are heartbreaking, but they need to be told… Things need to change.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

For instance the story of Rehan (not her real name), who ran away from home after her uncle tried to force her to marry his son. ‘My troubles started the year my father died. I was six years old’ After an initial mediation session and the promise the engagement was off, she returned home and was locked up beaten up and abused and about to married of to her cousin yet again. She was able to escape, annule the engagement and now lives in a safehouse run by human rights organization Women for Afghan Women that help in situations like hers.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

At the same time i’ve seen women take a stand and rise up, which in some countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan isn’t easy to do and involves many risks.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

Taking a stand against rape, like Mukhtar Mai and women’s rights activist all over Pakistan, has cost them dearly.  Even former president Musharraf was quoted to saying that women who want to go abroad and get a visa or citizenship for Canada and be a millionaire, go get yourself raped… Stigma, condemnation by a whole society, it makes these women incredibly brave for standing up and saying ‘no’.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

Luckily, it’s not all been bad and sad stories and I’ve encountered smiling women all over the place. Women that were celebrating International Women’s Day like, like the women in the picture above, taken in a small village in rural Punjab in Pakistan. Women who educate other women and children to respect each other no matter what gender you have.

There is so much work to be done yet, and not just in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. The numbers of abused women in Belgium and the Western world in general are horrifying too… So take a stand against gender based violence and learn how to respect each other no matter what gender, religion or color of our skins.


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