Pakistani Leader Gul Lalai ‘What I’ve Learned: Gender Equality is an Ongoing Process, Not a Goal’

World Affairs Council Off 441
Gul Lalai  Woman Human Rights Defender

Gul Lalai
Woman Human Rights Defender

I am honored to have participated in the distinguished International Visitors Leaders Exchange Program. “Women as Political Leaders” caught my attention because I feel the best way to develop leadership skills and broaden your vision is to visit a different country and learn the culture. So far, my travels have included Nepal, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom and now the United States of America. Each has provided a unique experience that has contributed to my personal and professional growth.
I am the Director of Programs at Khwendo Kor, a civil society organization that promotes education, health, and human rights for women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province of Pakistan. I manage the organization’s programs, with a focus on women’s empowerment by helping them demand their education, health, livelihood and civil and political rights. In this position, I supervise six program managers. Each manages about 13 staff members and works with a community. In addition, I co-chair the local chapter of End Violence Against Women / Girls Alliance.

How A Fragile Environment Shook My Confidence
In this part of the world, people doubt the fragile and conservative civil society. Women are denied basic rights such as freedom, education, employment, reproductive rights and more.

Gul Lalai_team

We made significant contributions in the community and received an award by the corporate sector. The plaque was titled “I am the Change.”

But You’ve Inspired Me to Build Internal Strength
At an early age when I was a tomboy, I developed a strong sense of the unfairness of gender inequality. But deep inside my heart, I was determined to do something that would change the gender norms. Now as a member of civil society, I know I can change and amend the laws to create gender justice. In the U.S., I saw how a vibrant civil society can support the entire democratic system and build a strong society. This has strengthened my confidence.

…and Shown Me How to Create Change
Attending the meetings in the U.S. boosted my confidence and enthusiasm for making change in the world. The women’s groups provided insight that women’s empowerment is an ongoing process rather than a goal. The co-founders of Collective Changes presented a women’s leadership workshop. Sharing personal stories, they explained how commitment and perseverance led them to success. These stories reminded me that my efforts contribute to the larger cause of advancing women worldwide.

Gul Lalai participates in organization's "strategic planning" workshop.

Participating in our organization’s “strategic planning” workshop.

Your Training & Mentoring Play a Vital Role
In the U.S., a lot of mentoring occurs which prompted me to mentor even more women at home. The information from the workshop has improved my leadership skills and ability to manage issues. For example, I have honed my listening skills and helped my team members become more confident. When conducting leadership training with the women, I often quote the stories from the workshop. My team responds favorably, which suggests the training has improved. Eventually, I will include the speed networking exercise.

My Cheerleaders Help Me
My friends, family and colleagues continuously encourage me and raise my spirits. They provide technical support and help me manage time and other resources.  My biggest cheerleader, however, is my younger brother. He is respectful, challenges society and pushes me to fulfill my dream.

Gul Lalai_Waleed, my biggest cheerleader, and me

Waleed, my biggest cheerleader, and me

…My Dream Motivates Me
I love the freedom and individualism in America and would like to promote this in my society. My dream is to promote equality for all and make the world a better place for others regardless of gender, race, nationality or religion.

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About Ms. Gul Lalai

What was your last accomplishment?
I was selected for a fellow human rights defender by the University of York- UK, and I attended a six months fellowship program.

What’s your favorite book?
“Like the Flowing River” by Paulo Coelho

Who’s your hero?
My ideal is Mukhtaran Bibi who stood against the statusque. She is from Pakistan-a gang rape survivor becoming a human rights activist.

What is the best way for you to spend time with your brother?
We do discussions on various issues.

As a tomboy (when you were a child), what activity did you like to do?
I loved going out especially traveling outside the city. Traveling is still my passion.

What has been your most frustrating technical problem that your friends have helped you with?
I think I still have many technical problems and I openly share them with my friends. The best thing they can do (and have done) with me is that they accept it.

Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?
I think I can do creative writing (I would like to write travelogue) but I don’t have enough time to practice and grooming my that skill.

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