Farzeen Tariq: Legal Advocacy for Women’s Rights

Farzeen Tariq is a student at Northwestern University School of Law.

I grew up with three sisters in a politically active family in Islamabad, Pakistan, and was touched by social justice issues since a young age. Yet there weren’t many outlets for me to express myself because I was discouraged from being “too outspoken” and “too educated.”

If I – despite living in a progressive city with a relatively liberal family in Pakistan – was being held back from pursuing an education and contributing to society, what hope was there for millions of other girls who didn’t have the same opportunities as I have? This is the question I asked myself continuously, and it was the driving force behind my decision to leave home at the age of 18.

I received a scholarship to Lake Forest College in Chicago so I could study social justice. My subsequent experiences studying law at Oxford University and Northwestern Law School has helped me see how social change impacts the legal system. This, in turn, can effect a powerful change in government and society.

In Islamabad, there were many instances when my friends could not discuss sexual harassment and feminine health issues openly. Hence, I recently attempted to implement my micro-finance research in marginalized communities in Islamabad. I discovered that women want to talk about the injustices that affect them but they need encouragement and a platform to do so.

I refuse to accept that a sexual harassment victim has to stay quiet about the incident because it is “shameful”. I refuse to accept that when a husband beats his wife, it is “okay” and that “there is nothing we can do about it.” I refuse to believe that when a woman wants to pursue her education, she should be discouraged and pressured to get married because “no one will want her once she is too bold and aged.” Our generation has to change these patterns.

It is time for a change. I know there is room for change. My personal experiences have led me to use my voice against the social injustices. The first step to solving any problem is acceptance, and our communities have remained passively quiet about these issues. When the younger generation discusses these problems, they are discouraged to do so.

My own story shows patterns that are a proof that it is time for a change. It is time to accept that social injustice exists and disproportionately affects women. I want to be a part of that change in any way possible. The first step to solving any problem is acceptance, and our communities have for too long remained passively quiet about these issues.

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