A watershed moment?

People have been asking if Zainab is a watershed moment for Pakistan. The sexual abuse against children that we are talking about today is nothing new. It is decades old and is not only specific to Pakistan. From Australia, Congo, UK, USA, India to Sweden and Saudi Arabia, name a country and I’ll share their ugly cases of brutal child abuse.

There was a hue and cry in 2015, when reports of rape of hundreds of children in Kasur surfaced. But we didn’t follow through.

What’s different now is that after Zainab’s rape and murder, our dormant social conscience woke up with dragons roar.

Today, Pakistan is having an open discourse on child protection, awareness policies, curriculums, protection plans, raising the age of child marriage, understanding the mind of the abuser, the punishment, the prevention. We are talking openly and angrily about it all. We are coming out with our own stories of pain and abuse and survival. We are remembering those who didn’t survive, those who didn’t make it. This debate is very important.

Had we debated this earlier, many of us would not have been abused at all.

This debate is creating awareness and cultivating subtle changes in people’s minds. For the first time, we are giving the hearts and minds of our youth an option to talk and express themselves.

Individuals like Baela Raza Jamil, Naeem Zafar, Sherry Rehman are being heard. Organisations like SAAHIL and Idara Taleem-o-Agahi are being taken on board by the government for policy development.

Individuals like Frieha Altaf and Marvi Memon are being delegated responsibility to in this regard. These are the people who care.

Solutions are being discussed on how to increase awareness through media, schools and parenting at homes. From cards in NADRA to discussing changes in laws pertaining to child marriage and corporal punishment are being recommended.

My request to everyone is that this wave of passion might not last for all of us. Some of us have made it our life’s work, for others, it is another wake-up call. But all of us care about these children, our children, all children.

All of us collectively need to keep this pressure on for reforms and changes ASAP! Ride this wave, friends. Now is the time to turn the tide for changes that can constructively and productively make our children’s futures brighter.

Keep the conversation and the discourse focused on solutions.

Time to roll up our sleeves and work.

Every time there is a crisis, a trauma, from Joesph Colony to Iqbal Town Park or APS School Peshawar, we wake up and we roar. We have risen again and again but this time ASK FOR THE REFORMS and changes we need to protect our children. This time make it specific. Make the state answerable and responsible for these REAL changes.

Follow the work of SAAHIL, IDARA TALEEM O AGAHI, AHUNG, PAHCHAAN and see what changes they recommend! Please!

This is the time to be solution oriented. It’s such a powerful moment for our children. Please make it count!

Published in Daily Times, February 1st 2018.