‘He’s stabbing women because he wants us to stay at home. He’s instilling fear in us. But we will continue to come out and work’. — Gulzar, 27, domestic worker
SO says my domestic help (maasi) after visiting Humaira, a 16-year-old girl from her community, in a hospital after she was stabbed near Liaquatabad while returning home to Moach Goth, a low-income settlement in Baldia Town, Karachi. Gulzar, divorced and a single parent, tells of another stabbing, this one of a 45-year-old maasi in the area where I live near PECHS. “She was stabbed in street number 10. She makes chapattis in bungalows and lives in Korangi,” I am told.
How would city officials have reacted if the lunatic was stabbing powerful, rich, influential men? Would they have shrugged it off saying it is impossible to find the lone knife-wielding man in a city of almost 20 million?
This research report written for Shirkatgah, Karachi was published in The News, Pakistan on 21 May, 2000.
According to media reports, an average of 630 violent deaths (95 per cent male) per year was recorded in the city of Karachi during the ten-year period from 1990-99. No accumulated figures were released or studied–by any quarter–of men arrested/tried/incarcerated by criminal courts or gone underground. Yet media reports and unofficial estimates indicate that these figures ran in thousands. Armed conflict/ethnic strife in Karachi, thus, has left innumerable (middle and lower-middle income) families without male wage earners, leaving thousands of women and children survivors to cope with psychological trauma and economic hardships.
The following story presents in a microcosm the turbulent life of women affected by forces beyond their control, and attempts to document, courtsey Shirkatgah, the sheer grit and courage of women, and their struggle for survival.