THE BLOG
04/10/2014 11:24 am ET Updated Jun 10, 2014

This Is How You Make Waves in Pakistan (and Elsewhere Too)

Humaira Shahid is a name you may not know, but you definitely should.

She has spent her career promoting women's rights in Pakistan, often at great danger to herself. Now she can add author to her long list of accomplishments.

Recently, Humaira told me that her book Devotion and Defiance is her effort to help western readers understand the context of violence against women in Pakistan, and to realize that violence is not limited to Pakistan. It is a global issue.

One in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. That's an astonishingly high number. Yet, it's a statistic that's remained sticky for years according to the World Health Organization.

"I take you to the villages, to the streets, to the brothels, to all those stories where women are victims of violence and a lot of my stories have a very strong explanation of the context they're surrounded by," Humaira said.

"My book brings forward the concept of Sharia law and how the West perceives it. The violence happening in Pakistan has very little to do with Sharia. Honor killings are rooted in customary practices, but in fact, in Islam, honor killings are first-degree murder. But clergies use religion as a tool, so I'm trying to tell all the aspects that surround these women victims."

Her roots on this issue are deep. Women Thrive Worldwide has worked for years with Humaira to help pass the International Violence Against Women Act, which was recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives, but has yet to be passed.

As a member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, Humaira spearheaded legislation against acid attacks and predatory lenders that target women. She has faced enormous obstacles and intimidation, but her experience provides tangible lessons for today's advocates.

"I've always been vocal and whenever I have raised my voice, I've gotten support. I was all alone in my legislative initiatives, especially on predatory money lenders. I faced enormous discouragement and I was intimidated. But after four years, I passed a bill to address it."

So what does she think would help Pakistan's women and girls? Humaira says the discourse on Islam needs to change.

"The obsession with women's sexual morality and what women wear and how women behave is so unnatural. The real Sharia is not about women and how much ankle or hair women are showing. This attention takes away from the integral matters of Islam, which are social welfare and economic justice."

"We have voices of moderation and dissent in Pakistan, the voices like mine."

Humaira Shahid is a voice of strength and hope. Hers is a name we would do well to remember.