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ISLAMABAD: The third edition of the Kashmir HUM Women Leaders Awards was held in Islamabad on Friday and it brought together some very influential and visionary people under one roof: activists, lawyers, parliamentarians, journalists, doctors, and even the President of Pakistan.

Yes, the guests of honour were none other than President Dr. Arif Alvi and first lady, Samina Alvi, who took out the time to stand behind the cause and show their commitment to working towards gender parity in Pakistan.

The show began with an opening speech by Sultana Siddiqui, President of Hum Network Limited, and while she commended the work of all the awardees who were celebrated on stage, she also took the opportunity to demand for more equality and visibility for women in Pakistan. She highlighted how Hum Network works to create more women-centric spaces on screen and in real life too.

Hosts of the evening Ahsan Khan and Mira Sethi shouldered the responsibility of ensuring the event was a hit; they had to ensure that they were lively, entertaining and respectful of the guests who came on stage. And they did their job beautifully, especially Mira who offered a lot of sincerity in her words to each woman (and one man) who came on stage. The script was also cleverly written: there was the usual jest and banter between the hosts. Ahsan would make stereotypical sexist jokes (such as women take too long to get ready) and Mira would shoot him down with a befitting reply.



There were 12 awards in total, given to 11 women and one man, who are excelling in their respective areas in trying to create better medical, legal and social opportunities and outcomes for women: Muniba Mazari, Fiza Shah, Dr. Rozina Karmaliani, Ghulam Fatima, Maryam Bibi, Yasmeen Lari, Dr. Azra Raza, Justice Mazjda Rizvi, Noorjehan Bilgrami, Jaqueline Novogratz, Dr. Wan Wardatul Amani and Dr. Shershah Syed. Several prominent names, such as Hareem Farooq, Fehmida Mirza and Bushra Ansari, were invited on stage to give these coveted and well-deserved awards away.

Of course, no award show is complete without entertainment value. In total, there were three acts to keep the audience entertained as well. Sanam Marvi and Asim Azhar performed in the first break, Bushra Ansari and Yasir Hussain delivered a comedy sketch and Abrar-ul-Haq took the stage at the end as the concluding act.

While everyone brought their a-game to the stage, there was room for improvement in the comedy that was written for the occasion. Bushra Ansari was playing the character of a politician, while Yasir Hussain was journalist/talk show host asking her a series of questions about politics and her work. There were a lot of political references in there and one could tell that many politicians were being made fun of in the skit.

Unfortunately, they came at the expense of the female politician character that Ansari was playing. Simply put, she was the punchline, the butt of all jokes. She played the character of a dumb, corrupt, gold-digger politician extremely well, but we’re wondering why the female character had to be portrayed like that? On a platform that is aiming to empower and celebrate women, it would have been more helpful to have the journalist portrayed in the awkward, not the woman. We know that women in power are often asked chauvinist and stereotypical questions about their looks, their families etc. Perhaps next time, the comedy can revolve around patriarchy and the sexism women have to fight against, and show the female character as an empowered one.

Barring that small hiccup, the HUM Women Leaders Awards unravelled as a powerful and much-needed forum that is bringing the stories of some of the most hard-working and incredible woman to the forefront. We hope to see HUM continue this legacy and look forward to more dynamic women next year!

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