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This is the second of three stories told by Pakistani women impacted by the UK government funded Aitebaar program.

“My name is Maryum* and I am a nursing supervisor at Khyber Teaching Hospital, Peshawar. I am also the Senior Joint Secretary of the Nurses Association of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.”

“I belong to a Pathan family. My family, unlike many other Pashtoon families, was liberal as far as education was concerned. My father did not discriminate between me and my brothers and gave us all equal rights.”

“I was the first member of my family – close and extended – to become a nurse. Nursing was not considered an acceptable profession for women back then and I was faced with a lot of opposition from members of my extended family. Some of our relatives vehemently opposed my decision and many, including my maternal uncle, even cut off ties with my immediate family. It was only years later that they reconciled.”

“I enjoy my profession, even despite the setbacks and hindrances I have faced during my career. It makes me proud of be one of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s few nurses, and an important member of the nursing association. It gives me great joy to be able to help people – whether in the nursing ward or even solving other nurses’ problems.”

“Our nursing union deals with problems of nurses across the province. Many of these problems are related to harassment and bullying. Nurses, being women, are also denied of rights in this society owing to their gender. One of the main reasons for this is lack of education and awareness. There was recently a harassment case in a local (Peshawar) hospital. A female nursing student was harassed by an X-ray technician. She complained to the higher authorities and her case was transferred to us. We pressed for charges against the culprit but no action was taken. We also dropped the case when we realized that it would not proceed. Had we been empowered with basic knowledge regarding our legal rights, we would have dealt with that case better.”

“I am a recent beneficiary of the legal awareness trainings the UK Government funded Aitebaar programme has conducted. I, along with other nurses who have availed these trainings, have learned how to handle pressing issues, such as cases of harassment, bullying and teasing which we are subject to. We have been taught about our human rights, and the trainings have also touched upon gender based violence and sexual harassment. We have learned through our association with our trainers about avenues for redress under the law and now know where to report particular cases and how to follow them through.”

“These legal rights awareness trainings promise to empower us with essential knowledge. The initial trainings we have received have made us more confident with our dealings and have taught us how to protect ourselves. We now know when and how to involve the police in certain matters. Police stations were daunting places and we avoided them. That is not the case anymore. We have already taken forward two harassment cases and registered complaints in relevant police stations.”

“We are grateful that we have been provided these trainings. Now nurses from our union, both within and across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, come to us to discuss their problems. We educate them as to what to do and how to handle their matters.”

“I feel that females in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should be provided avenues and empowered with education and awareness so they can make their lives better. These empowered women can then further educate other women in the society.”

The Aitebaar program works to build citizens’ trust in the state and to bring stability to Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The program is supporting communities and individuals throughout their interaction with the criminal justice process - the police, prosecutions, courts, jirgas, and correctional services. Aitebaar is helping to increase people’s knowledge and awareness of rights and to improve public service delivery within the security and justice sectors. It is also working to ensure that women too have better access to quality justice and security services.

Aitebaar is a UK government program. It is being implemented by Coffey. Learn more about Aitebaar at www.Aitebaar.org.

* Names have been changed.