Thursday, June 30, 2011


بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم
In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful

Assalamualaikum wbt.

Watching this film last night, I was inspired. And so I wish to share their story. The story about a group of young women of Chaturbhuj-stan brothel in Bihar, near the border of Nepal who work to prevent girls from being trafficked into prostitution, offer other kinds of employment to former prostitutes and remove society's stigma that the only jobs suited for women in Bihar was that of selling their bodies.

These are the endevours of Parcham lead by the now 32-year old Naseema.

A Woman's Dignity

What touched me the most was the fact that in some parts of the world now, a lot of women are still treated like slaves, or treat themselves as one. Some are tricked into prostitution, while others may voluntarily opt for the 'job'. But that might be because they are left without a choice. In order to survive, support their children, and with their country's conditions offering little other job alternatives, what else can women resort to?

I thought that horrible era when women are not even looked upon as part of the human 'species' had long gone, when prophet Muhammad pbuh came. The stigma was the same in many parts of the world then. Even in Arab society of prophet Muhammad's origins, before Islam was sent down as a deen, it was clear; women were not wanted. It had been a tradition to bury newborn baby girls alive, out of shame. Shame, was the stigma.

Daughters of the Brothel

Naseema herself did not know whether her mother was a prostitute or not. Her mother left her father to marry another man while her father also moved away some time later. It was a women whom she calls "grandmother" who adopted and raised Naseema. Her "grandmother" was a prostitute and it was with her earnings as a prostitute that she sent Naseema to school, making Naseema the first girl from the brothel to ever get education. So, Naseema proudly calls herself "Daughter of the Brothel", not because she takes pride in prostitution, but because it was the earnings of a prostitute that made her into the educated and spirited women she is today.

Naseema and Parcham

Naseema and her Parcham comrades are the heroins of this story.

To me, what 'little' achievement they had achieved up until today, was very motivating. Oh no, wait, motivating doesn't even give them the credit they deserve. It was, truly an inspiration.

Jugnu, their magazine was designed as a platform where they could freely voice their concerns. Naseema says the media also wrote about Parcham, but with their own agenda. So she started thinking about their own platform where their voices will reach all of India. In fact, they claim to have subscribers from as far as Nairobi and America, and from almost every part of India. And get this, Jugnu is handwritten. (A lot of India's magazines are handwitten, I just found out yesterday through this original article) Not typed with electric-powered computers just like I'm doing right now. Jugnu is written by a few Parcham ladies for free. From what I understand, they made copies of Jugnu by a photostat machine.

During her time, it was only Naseema who managed to go to school. Now, most if not all of the children from Chaturbhuj-stan brothel is being sent to school. Recently, Naseema and her team managed to persuade India's Open University (if I'm not mistaken) to set up a study centre near Chaturbhuj-stan to open up opportunities of higher education to the children there. It is just amazing of how a group of women's perseverance can achieve all this.

"Parcham's biggest task," I quote, "came in 2008, when local government official conspired with villagers to eradicate the neigbouring red-light area Boha Tola in Sitamarhi district by burning it."

Unofficial sources say that at least 100 women, men and children went missing as a result of the fire. As they were never officially registered by the government, no effort was made to find out what had happened to them.

Naseema and some of the other women recorded the incident on their mobile phones and gave me the footage to use exclusively in the film. They told horrifying tales of gang-rape, children being thrown onto fires and police brutality. Some of the women from Chaturbhuj-sthan went on hunger strike to show their solidarity with the people of Boha Tola, but the hunger strikers and their supporters were all put in prison.

My favourite scene in this 24-minute film was when Naseema charged onto the stage of a meeting held by the Chief Minister of Bihar and started talking about the Boha Tola incident. The minister then reprimanded them for what he calls "their misbehaviour". Naseema then asks,
" If someone does not behave properly, does the constitution give you the right to kill them? If you think that's justified then kill us right here. Otherwise we are going to start a Boha Tola right in front of your house, because you've wiped out the original Boha Tola."

I find her statement to be quite amusing, as well as clever.
What happened to Boha Tola, I don't know if it's right or not. Whatever bad things happened there, I am not the judge, and I will not be the judge. But to punish those people by massacre, I would say that it was unjust

Because the ones who did the punishing are the ones who create that very problem, for failing to prevent it in the first place. Then, they take the easy way out by taking the lives, the people they were supposed to protect, from harm and from nafs. 

They may not be muslims, but I think every religion advocates moral values and doing good deeds to others. For muslims, we are reminded many times in the Quran to watch ourselves so as to not fall prey to our nafs or desires (simple translation). After failing to implement that to society, and taking care of things the harsh way, is just, unjust. Humans do not deserve to be the judge of their own deeds, because when they do, incidents like these are the aftermath. As a muslim, I will always say, only God, Allah Taala is the best judge of our deeds.

Many Naseemas

Before the film ended, Naseema left me with a smile when she said, 
"I think the biggest achievement so far is that I have created many Naseemas." 
So that when she is not around, Parcham can still carry on with the goals they have set to make real. Well Naseema, I feel like being a Naseema myself. (smiles) Thanks for being an inspiration to people of Chaturbhuj-stan, and perhaps other people like myself, whom we have never met, and perhaps never will, but your work has reached thousands around the globe, even when our hands never will.

Millions of gratitude to Naseema, Parcham, filmmaker Gautam Singh, and Al-Jazeera network.

Keep up the good work y'all. (smiles)

red-light district: a district with many brothels
brothel: a building where prostitutes are available


Sarah Kushairi said...

Kak Timi, I've read each word in this post and I have to say that this got me inspired as well!

I mean, we are too preoccupied with our own minor problems that we didn't really realise that there are people, specifically women out there who have bigger problems and need our helps and supports.

This also teaches me not to become selfish and not to get too carried out my own problems (ok, takde kaitan, hahaha)

Thank you for posting this. :)

Ummu Hurairah said...

You're right Sarah! You've summed it up nicely too, "We are to preoccupied with our own minor problems that we didn't really realise that there are people, specifically women out there who have bigger problems and need our helps and supports."

Glad to share :)
We need little bits of motivation each day.

tgklah jgk video tu, lg best :)

Sarah Kushairi said...

*too carried out with. Haha.

Ok2, sarah tengok. :)