“This banner will not go inside among women!” Hafiz Mahtaab Shabbir from Vehari had anger in his eyes and his tone was quite harsh.
We were a little confused looking at his reactions. Gathering strength we asked Mr. Mahtaab about the thing on that banner which was not acceptable for him. He responded that this word “Sexual Health” is not tolerable for him. He stated that we don’t talk to women about such topics as they are considered shameless and blatant. We don’t allow women to converse about it or sit in such gatherings. Therefore, you are only allowed to conduct a session with men and boys though they still are not considered appropriate as such topics cause negative impacts on their upbringing.
That day we were very disappointed but we had faced such comments many times before as well so continued session with boys only. On the basis of our experience we visited that village again and again and kept meeting Mr. Mahtaab as well. Later, we supported two girl students from his village for transportation under his supervision. Because of our regular meetings, gradual change in his attitude was made possible and he started trusting the work we do for girls and women.
Now Mr. Mahtaab, after attending different sessions with men and boys realized how important these sessions were. He helped us a lot to make a Child Protection Committee and later took its charge as President. Along we conducted a walk against early marriage and held theater performances in the area under his supervision. The most interesting thing is that he helped Bedari in organizing sessions with girls and women on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health (SRHR).
Upon his referral, Bedari distributed 2 bicycles among girls from his village. Because of all struggles, our work has come to a point that if we don’t visit the village, Mr. Mahtaab calls us himself just after a week. At an interview, Mr. Mahtaab expressed his views about Bedari and its work in these words,
“We were completely unaware of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issue despite of reading in the books. I did not even believe to share such information with young girls and boys as I considered it un-Islamic. But now I feel that it is very important to guide girls and boys about this issue so they would know both pros and cons. I am grateful to Bedari for providing us information on the said issue.”