Environment, climate change and biodiversity Women and Society

Inclusivity in Climate change: how far have the women come?

Fozia Parveen*

Women’s Day is a reminder for us to look at how the world is shaping around us in this day and age. Pakistan’s average CO2 emissions is 1.05 tonnes per capita compared to the global average of 4.82 tonnes per capita. Regardless of our contribution to global greenhouse (GHG) emissions, we have been declared the 5th country most vulnerable to the impacts of Climate change. Roughly half of the workforce in agriculture comprises of women and they have a major role to play in food security. Women therefore, have a significant role to play in adapting sustainably to the impacts of climate change. 

The first World Women’s Congress (8-12 November 1991) for a Healthy Planet in Miami, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) brought together more than 1,500 women from 83 countries to work jointly on a strategy for UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). If the peasant women from India could stop cutting of trees and commercial activity under the Chipko Movement in the 1970s, the more informed and more educated women have even bigger responsibilities in saving the planet, especially in this age of information and technology. Despite all the efforts, the women’s agenda 21 was not very inclusive and the following year, UNCED’s agenda 21 did not include many points from the said agenda. However, this still was a very positive step towards making women a part of the process. 

It is well established that women are severely affected by climate change and natural disasters and this impact is created by the prevailing inequality in the society, on top of poverty, discrimination and patriarchy i.e. the inequitable social and cultural norms. It is therefore that we need an ecological accounting system, capable of tracking and promoting climate just economic practices at every level, from local to global and is also inclusive of all intersections of society. This then brings the focus on the concept of globalisation and capitalism. By creating the concept that world is homogenous and economic globalisation is achievable, cultures and identities are being destroyed. The capability of small scale local businesses and their capability of being climate just is being undermined. This also indirectly affects women as most women run very local and small scale businesses. Due to their limited resources they either become prey to bigger business and get very little pay for the work they do or never really reach the consumers that would value their work. The corporate world has in fact jeopardised small and sustainable businesses in general and small and sustainable women businesses in particular.

The corporate world has colonised everything from TV, education and education systems, supporting women initiative, becoming green, universalising consumer and commercialising youth etc. They are involved in all sectors from food to water, food and energy to biotechnology and so on.  The degree of injustice is remarkable as Michael Jordan was paid $20 million for promoting NIKE shoes, which is far greater than the total annual payroll of all the employees in the Indonesian factories that make the shoes (5 cents/hour). Women often stand at the centre of these injustices and their voice therefore matters.

The corporates need to understand that their mandatory corporate social money initiatives are not representative of the environmental damage they pose on the planet. As biggest polluters their responsibilities go way beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR). Women can raise their voice in endorsing the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) instead, where the producer is responsible for the extended life of their product. 

More and more women need to come in businesses, and key decision making positions especially at a national and international level so that their sensitive approach can make the planet sustainable and also sensitise people around them.

Educations and Awareness female voices Gender-based violence Women and Society

Proposal from HE, who must not be Remembered

Written by: Fozia Tahir for anonymous!

Sending a marriage proposal in Pakistan is like playing darts at home elsewhere.

  1. Give it a go, if it works very well, after all it was meant to be…
  2. If it doesn’t work, God forbid!! how could she ever say NO!!! (that characterless *************** -put as many stars as you can imagine-)

As one of my cousins had once asked me, “what is wrong with our boy?”. Now, why must I look for a fault in your boy to say no. I want to say no and it is my right to say no (FULL STOP). Who gives so many people the licence to ask me why I said no? especially when our beloved religion gives women the right to marry as well as other marital rights (see previous articles in the blog about marriage, dowry and divorce). But very often in such cases culture card is played to endorse oppression of baby girls. 

Funnily enough, when a women wants to say yes to a proposal, no further discussion is allowed on the topic. On the other hand when she wants to say no, the whole family sits her down and schools her on how amazing the boy and the family is and what benefits the matrimony could bring for Indo-Pak relationship (quite literally!).

I wish I could write more about the art, science and philosophy of marriage proposals in Pakistan but this post is not meant for that. It is actually based on a true story, where a boy, who had harassed a little girl at a very young age, decades later sent her a proposal and was very cross at getting ‘NO’ for an answer. I hope that this can shake people to be mindful about staying away from silly and irresponsible behaviour at a younger age and being mature enough when they ask for a girls hand later in their lives.

I am not saying that men don’t have problems when it comes to relationships and proposals, but the scale at which young girls and women suffer in this regard is incomparable to those of our fellow brethren, so I am really sorry that I will completely ignore your problems in this case.

The story is as under

‘Once upon a time there was a young girl in a place that allowed her to be wild and free. Despite many a lectures from her mother on why she should not go to her friends place and why she must be accompanied with an elder when leaving home, she did what she liked, which was to play outside with the kids from her street and come back home hours later. One day she was walking in the street alone and she encountered her cousin who was only a year or two older than hers. He took advantage of the opportunity and touched her every now and then while walking with her. Her mouth dried up. No one had told her what to do, if she ever encountered a situation like this. She wanted to shout but couldn’t so she ended up dodging him, running away until she got to her door.  The touching did not stop in the mean time. She went in, without making any noise and raised no further discussion on the topic. That boy and his face meant nothing to her. He deserved no emotion from her. Hate seemed too honourable for a little boy of his sort. That young cousin was dead, right there and right then for her. 

Decades later, her mother called her to tell her that she has a proposal. when she took his name, her ears deafened for a while. Seconds later, she asked her mother to say no as soon as possible without any further explanation. Fortunately, her parents weren’t too keen on the boy either so she got away with this one. The boy and his mother were cross about this (ofcourse). She has forgotten her place and how dare she say no to one of the finest boys in the family. 

She hadn’t forgotten her place. In reality He had forgotten his. How dare he send that proposal? did his mouth not burn with wildest of fire when he took her holy name with his filthy mouth? does he even remember what he had done to this girl or has he become holy and pious himself?

The biggest question,

Are women too emotional and worry too much about molestation and harassment while the accused man forgets it soon after committing it?

and, why must women forget such monsters? is there room for forgiveness in this case?

This doesn’t end here. This is a never ending problem of our society and we don’t really discuss it in organisations or at homes. Changing mindsets has become a must for our society and we have observed that education alone is not enough to change mindsets as the region that this lady is from claims to have highest literacy rate and an open mindset and so on…


P.s. I cried while writing this and I hope that it touches your hearts the way it has touched mine. 

P.P.s. Momma dears..Please Raise careful daughters and respectful sons!



Educations and Awareness female voices Women and Society

Fair, Lovely and Politically Incorrect

By: Fozia Tahir

Having lived in the UK for five years I had almost forgotten the importance of fair skin in Pakistan. I recently attended a musical event in my hometown in the north of Pakistan where majority of the population has lighter skin tone. The Host who of course happened to be from the south said, ‘the crowd was full of goray chittay people literally meaning, ‘fair skinned (beautiful) people’. The crowd is so used to such comments that no eyebrows were raised and no offence was taken. In the west however, the same host would have had to apologise soon after giving such a statement.

Why did no one question it?

Why were those who are not as fair skinned as most not offended?

Where exactly does this mind-set come from?

and why must we make peace with it?

We have been blaming colonialism and American influence on Pakistan for so many things but perhaps our mind-set is our own problem. Many politically incorrect things, including the obsession with fair skin, seems to have percolated deep down our thought process. I will not quote many research articles and figures here today but blame our media industry and the people involved in it for continuously reinforcing all the false ideas and poor mind-set that we have long fallen prey to.

Those who know Pakistan well would also know that television is the biggest form of entertainment for majority of the population residing in the urban as well as rural areas of Pakistan. People love to spend their afternoons and evenings in front of their TV. I wanted to see what was going on, on TV in terms of obsession with fair skin. I realised soon after that almost all the skin care products sell the very concept of getting lighter skin tone. Such as, 

Urdu: Hum larkiyon ka face fresh hona chahiye

Translation: Us, girls should have a fresh face

You shouldn’t second guess the name of the product. It is indeed called face fresh

Fair and lovely has long used women with dark skin tone as their models and shown their skin tone improve with the use of their product over time as an example.  This is 21st century and I think it’s about time that fair and lovely changes the name for the new lines it is creating.

What’s funnier is that some of these creams don’t display the products that they contain. E.g. I looked at the packaging of a famous whitening cream called gypsy amazing cream that only said at the front that it contains jojoba oil but no further ingredients were given at the back. It is obvious that the products contain bleach and few major ingredients should be placed at the back of the packing. Its not really my problem as I wouldn’t use the product unless I am conducting some kind of research experiment on the product but those who use it deserve to know what must the mystery magic box contain.  

Fair is not good and kaala (dark skin) is not bad and we need to break such stereotypes especially popular products like Fair and lovely whose consumers seem unaffected by such form of political incorrectness.  

The root of all our problems could be lack of education but many formally educated people also believe in the importance of fair skin. In fact, in Pakistan, fair skin is a requirement in the proposal checklist for a girl from the male side.

Women invest more time and money on their physical appearances and almost no time on personality growth..

Solution: Change aka Tabdeeli?

Change is coming. The newer generation is ready to fight all the stereotypes but we are still shackled by many concepts the like of fair is beautiful.

we have a long long long way to go until we speak about issues like pay gap and equal pay for equal work etc nevertheless we should not give up on our fights to break stereotypes.

Good Luck to us for that…







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Women and Society

Infatuation with aesthetic experience

To be or not to be comfortable in one’s skin

Written and narrated by: Fozia Tahir

How many advertisements do you come across daily that are a reminder of what beauty is to women of all shape, size and age.
Has the society plotted impossible standards for beauty?
Is there a right age to start wearing makeup?
Why is it so important for some professionals to wear makeup at all times like the air hostesses?
Has the overuse of makeup led to feeling of inadequacy among women?
Has this beauty obsession led to decline in self-esteem?
Are people aware of how much money they waste on makeup and how heavy these beauty products are on their pocket?
It is not just the use of cosmetic products but going to other extremes such as plastic surgery to meet the standards of beauty set by the society making cosmetics industry worth billions of dollars.
I am a beauty industry cynic, with let women be comfortable in their skin mindset but I also think that makeup amongst many other things is a matter of personal choice. I truly admire all my friends who the time and energy to turn makeup into art. This leaves in an even harder position i.e. to put forth my views without hurting anyone’s right to look more beautiful for themselves.
First things first.

Why do people apply makeup?
Because its quick, easy and inexpensive compared to other methods like diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery to meet the standards of beauty enforced by the society.
Growing up I always read that men found women with makeup unattractive. However, this notion is now changing. All the recent studies on makeup find out that women who wear makeup and all their peers find them more attractive when they are wearing makeup.
So, individuals rank themselves over attractive when wearing makeup and under attractive without which is why they feel more confident when they are wearing makeup.
Women who wear makeup on a regular basis are women who believe in the beautifying effect of cosmetics.

What can makeup do for you?
We all know that it can cover up blemishes, enhance eye colour, or brighten up features of your face. But more than that it makes you look happier and healthier. In some studies, it has even been related to greater earning potential and finding more prestigious jobs.

Is there any harm in it?
A Research found that positive relationships were established between cosmetic usage and “anxiety, self-consciousness, introversion, conformity, and self-presentation” and that negative relationships were found between cosmetic usage and “extroversion, social confidence, emotional stability, self-esteem, physical attractiveness, and intellectual complexity”.
A woman’s anxiety can come from hundreds of sources; beauty advertisements, peer pressure, innate feelings of insecurity, etc. It has been found that overall the beauty industry has a negative effect on a woman’s self-esteem, body image, and perception of beauty. By using upward comparisons, women are constantly comparing themselves to standards of beauty that society shows to them.

The beauty industries influence on women in the society:
The effect that advertising in the fashion and beauty industry has on women has been well established by research. By creating advertisements with unrealistic images of beauty, it has resulted in anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence in many women. Most of these negative emotions stem from unhappiness among body and appearance.

Is it fight against traditional roles or is it conforming to it?
The patriarchal domination of traditional society has not only defined our position as the one who stays inside the house, but it also implies a complete subordination of the woman’s body to the man, for example, the requirement for a woman to remain a virgin until married, bear children and to devote her life to the care of her children and so on.
Appearance (and especially an appearance that has been created by working to improve the body by means of makeup, diets or plastic surgery) is a matter of etiquette in some societies such as the Koreans where having plastic surgery is like the use of luxury products.
Associating use of beauty products to self confidence and having freedom is also to an extent debatable. As certain cultural and social standards of beauty and the perceived rewards for being physically attractive have pressured more and more women to apply cosmetics to change their appearance in order to conform to idealised social and cultural beauty standards and expectations. We might actually still be conforming to what others think rather than what we think. This can be backed by researchers have found out that women who identify with more traditional roles are more likely to apply cosmetics to achieve beauty.

What you need to know:

Sun and ageing:
The sunlight is comprised of various UV radiations with the most important being UVA and UVB. Most of the damage caused to the skin is actually due to sun than that of other external factors and age. The very basic thing to know for skin care would be using cream with higher sun protection factor (SPF) to protect you from UVB lights that cause burning of the skin and also a product that contains five-star rating for protection against UVA, that actually causes ageing. UVB is also responsible for Vitamin D manufacturing so depending upon skin colour you would need a little sun exposure to get that supply (in the absence of sunscreen).

This is becoming a mass market for rich people these days and other ageing women like myself who will buy products off the shelf if it claims to be anti-wrinkle. So from the little research that I have done I digged a little deeper on Botox where tretinoin is injected into the skin and has alongside anti-wrinkle properties other side effects that I will not be talking about here.
But if you want to buy something off the shelf then you might want to look for products that contain Retinol or other peptides known to do the same. Point being, don’t just buy a product for its claims. Do your due diligence about the ingredients and their positive and negative side effects.
Cosmetic products can contain more than 10,000 ingredients which can be linked to many diseases like cancer, birth defects, developmental and reproductive impairments. Because of that, US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) banned nine ingredients including coal tar colors, formaldehyde, glycol ethers, lead, mercury, parabens, phenylenediamine, and phthalates in cosmetic products and there are strict regulations in Europe as well but it may not be true for many international products and therefore you must read about it before you buy it.

Seductive Promises:
Anti-wrinkle, anti-ageing, radiant, active ingredients, clinically proven and dermatologically tested are amongst many a promises and scientific evidence that I will clearly buy a product for. But these claims are not as seductive as they seem. Clinically proven could mean 1% to 100% results, with the lower not making any visible difference to anyone’s life.
Dermatologically tested: This claim can be made even if it was ever tested on the skin of an individual.
Active Ingredients: This can be inferred based on an in vitro test done in labs in various machines
Radiant, glowing, rested are all claims that realistically are impossible to achieve as well. But like many others when I see these words on a product, I do fall for it.

Looks or behaviour?

The self-discrepancy theory where you keep comparing your actual self to the ideal self very often makes you ignore your attractiveness and focuses on the flaws in your looks or body instead.
While it is absolute spectacle to look beautiful, it is your personality that matters in the longer run i.e. you might be the most beautiful person in the room but if your behaviour is not right then that appearance will not be of much use. So despite working on your appearance work on your inner self, your morals and your personality as well which then brings me back to my own favourite narrative that before looking pretty learn to be comfortable in your own skin.


Annex I

Know your skin

With a weight of about 4Kg and a surface area of about 1.8m2, skin is widest organ of an organism. Although its constitution is approximately the same, it undergoes notable variation such as its thickness enabling skin to have a perfect functional adaptation. Variations can also be associated with age, ethnic group, gender, or anatomic sites.
We all know that skin is mainly intended to protect human beings against physical or chemical external aggression and also against internal organic loss. The external hydrolipidic protective film (of the epidermis) called stratum corneum must be functionalised by ensuring moisturization -water is the keratin plasticizer-. The underlying epidermis ensures functional and continuous regeneration of the surface state (keratogenesis) and skin pigmentation (melanogenesis). Followed by dermis that is responsible for coherence, elasticity and thermos regulation of the whole skin and hypodermis that has protective and reserve function. Based on the water and hyrolipidic content of the film, you can end up having different skin types e.g. excess lepidic content


Nash, R., Fieldman, G., Hussey, T., Lévêque, J., & Pineau, P. (2006). Cosmetics: They Influence More Than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(2), 493 -504.

Robertson, J., Fieldman, G., & Hussey, T. (2008). ‘Who wears cosmetics?’ Individual differences and their relationship with cosmetic usage. Individual Differences Research, 6(1), 38-56

Cash, T. F., Dawson, K., Davis, P., & Bowen, M. (1989). Effects of cosmetics use on the physical attractiveness and body image of American college women. The Journal of Social
Psychology, 129(3), 349-355.

Ullah H, Noreen S, Rehman A, Waseem A, Zubair S, Adnan M, Ahmad I (2013) Comparative study of heavy metals content in cosmetic products of different countries marketed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan Arabian J Chem.

Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Fourth Edition, edited by André O. Barel, Marc Paye, Howard I. Maibach