How miserably sad and depressing. Farida Afridi, an activist for tribal women in Pakistan, was murdered today. (You know how. You don’t even need to look. Leaving home for work. Guys on motorcycles. Guns. Died on the way to the hospital.)
Along with her sister Noor Zia, Farida was committed to social change and economic emancipation for women from the platform of a welfare organisation called the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA). Both women were among the founding members of the NGO and had a Masters degree in Gender Studies.
Due to tribal customs and traditions, women in the area remain mostly restricted and unable to achieve their true potential, but Farida broke all barriers and relentlessly worked for women’s development. “We have lost a great member of our team,” said Lal Jan, the technical advisor of the organisation.
The sisters faced tough resistance when they told their family about the path they had chosen for themselves. “We told our parents that we would work in accordance with our religious and cultural traditions, assuring them that we would never let the family honour suffer because of our line of work. Finally, they agreed,” Noor had said.
Syed Afzal Shinwari, project coordinator in Community Appraisal and Motivation Program (CAMP), said that SAWERA started small but is now an influential organisation. “Because of this brutal act, women in Fata will be discouraged to work and development will come to a halt,” he said.
You can go back and read an optimistic article about them from last September.
If it weren’t for the support of their father and the persistence of their mother, Farida Afridi and Noor Zia Afridi would not be able to read a single word of this article. But today, the two are not only final year students of MSc in Gender studies and holders of MBA degrees, but are also determined champions of women’s education and empowerment.
Farida and Noor’s long struggle against discriminatory tribal customs started when they were school children. “After we completed our primary education, our male family members wanted us to stop going to school,” says Farida. But the girls’ parents were adamant that they would continue their education.
Since then, equal status for women and children’s rights have been issues close to their hearts. It was to win these rights that the two established the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA) in the Jamrud subdivision of Khyber Agency in December 2008.
And this is their reward.