Pakistani is known for producing quality on television, specifically Pakistani dramas. However, there is one section of programming that does not garner the same sort of respect – talk shows. When referring to talk shows in Pakistan, they will generally fall into two categories: the loud, argumentative political talk shows or the intrusive, mockery that are morning shows. It is rare to find sensible talk shows that discuss real issues that affect women in the country – until now.
Kanwal Ahmed founded Soul Sisters Pakistan in 2013, a Facebook group that sought to connect the women of Pakistan in many ways, providing them with a safe space to speak. The group moved on to be a massive success and 6 years later, Kanwal Ahmed is now hosting her own talk show on a digital platform. The episodes on Facebook and YouTube, Conversations With Kanwal is a show that tackles subjects important to women by introducing the audience to real-life examples, women talking about their experiences regarding many different subjects.
A total of twelve episodes, seven episodes have aired to date. The topics discussed include domestic abuse, hearing loss, chai trolley culture, women’s cricket, dwarfism, miscarriages and colorism. In the third episode, titled “Chai Trolley,” Suraiya states that a time came when she told her father “Mera mujra band karwa dein,” explaining that the “chai trolley culture” of serving prospective suitors and their families is the equivalent of performing a mujra, minus the dancing. Her story is not much different than most girls in society who go through an arranged marriage process. Most women have felt the humiliation and degraded feeling after being “studied” for a proposal. Everything from height, weight, way of serving and walking, it’s all scrutinized and makes a girl feel as though she’s putting on a show.
Likewise, in episode seven, titled “Colorism,” Annie talks about her trouble finding an acceptable proposal for marriage as a woman with a darker skin tone. She talks about the struggle she felt internally, hearing she was unattractive and dark from childhood, being made to feel undesirable and unworthy. She narrates how inferior she felt after meeting her “good-looking” husband and how his compliments unarmed her, as she was not used to being praised.
These are the conversations South Asian women crave to hear, stories they can relate to on some level – and even if they cannot relate, stories that need to be told. For example, episode 2 deals with hearing loss and how Pakistani society treats young girls with such issues as “defective” and worthless. These stories trigger sadness, but also bring forth feelings of hope. Seeing these women discussing their negative experiences, yet not only living to tell the tale, but also living happily is an important point for women to take home, young and old. This is a show worth watching.