International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day, Muniba says: “Celebrate womanhood, Celebrate your strength”

Date: Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Author: Faria Salman

Photo: UN Women Pakistan

Muniba Mazari, 29, is Pakistan’s first National Ambassador for UN Women - the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, appointed in December 2015.

In her first International Women’s Day message Muniba shares: “No one can empower a woman but herself. When you empower yourself you empower your whole generation. This International Women’s Day take the charge of your own life and tell people how strong you are because you are beautiful, you are a woman. Celebrate womanhood, celebrate your strength and happy International Women’s Day.”

With your new appointment as the first National Ambassador for UN Women Pakistan, what does “feminism” and “gender stereotyping” mean to you?

We still live in a world where people think that women are weaker than men both physically and emotionally. People still believe that men should not cry. This is the time we need to tell our sons that strength has no gender. We can't judge a person by his/her gender. It's the courage, determination and hard work that makes a human empowered not the gender.

Your artwork on women carries powerful messages for social change. Some show obstacles and struggles, while others show peace and accomplishments. Is there any parallel between your art and your personal story?

Photo: UN Women/ZeeShaan Jamal

My artwork tells my own life story and that story is everyone's story. It's about constant struggle for survival and untiring effort to follow one's dreams. This is why a viewer can relate to each and every art piece that I make. People ask me that why do I paint women only? I always say that being a woman, womanhood is the only subject I know the best. Every art piece gives the message of strength and the big eyes depict hope.

We come across many people who inspire us and want the best for us. Who has made the most impact on you – why and how?

A true mentor always tells you not to follow anyone. Sarmad Tariq, my very dear friend and mentor (who is sadly not with us any more – may he rest in peace) is the one who inspired me to be a motivational speaker. He was a quadriplegic and achieved so much on both national and international levels. He touched so many lives and I'm one of those. He once said “Problems are never too big, sometimes we are too small!” During the last telephonic conversation we had he said “Muniba don't follow anyone because if you'll follow someone you won't be the first one to reach to the destination. Choose your own way and be your own leader!' These are his precious words which I follow even now.

Everyone wants to feel accomplished and proud of something. What do you feel most proud of and why?

The most proud moment for me is the time when my mother reads my interviews, appreciates when I achieve something and smiles. 

A recent report has highlighted that “over half of Pakistan's teenage girls believe domestic violence is justified." What would your words of advice be to a young girl suffering from violence that could result in her physical injury or even death? Nobody can empower a woman but a woman herself. Girls need to know their worth. Here mothers can play a vital role in raising strong girls/women. A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. Girls should take the charge of their own lives. They should decide things for themselves. Getting respect is not a favor, it's the basic right of a human being may it be a man or a woman.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment is not just a women’s issue - it is as much the responsibility of men and boys. How can we raise boys to become a stronger voice for women and girls’ rights?

If we want to eliminate gender discrimination completely, we want men to support this cause. We need to work together for gender equality. Each one of us can be an example. Wherever I go, my brothers always accompany me. They know my strength, they know what I'm capable of and they support me. My mother raised them in a way that they never see a woman as a weak individual. To them both men and women are strong, determined and they both have equal rights. I feel proud when my four years old son says 'Mom I'm as strong as a girl!' To him strength has no gender.

How can we “Step it Up” for gender equality and make ‘Planet 50-50 a reality by 2030?

We have to change the mindsets which still think that women are weaker than men. Planet 5050 will be an unreachable reality unless and until both men and women work together as a team. We want men to support women and respect them for who they are, without gender discrimination.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day on 8 March, what message would you give to women and girls, and to men and boys?

We all are different from each other and we all are unique in our own ways. Do not judge anyone's abilities on the basis of their gender or appearance. No one can empower a woman but herself; and when you empower yourself you empower your whole generation. We are here to make this world a better place for ourselves and for our future generations and for that we all need to work as a team. Take the charge of your own life and tell people how strong you are because you are beautiful, you are a woman. Let's eliminate all kinds of discrimination and let's support each other. After all we are all humans! Celebrate womanhood, celebrate your strength and happy International Women’s Day.

For more information:

Please contact: Faria Salman
Strategic Management and Partnerships Officer & Communications Focal Point for UN Women Pakistan
Email: faria.salman@unwomen.org