Kamyla Marvi Tapal

“The nature of my work is such that if I talk about challenges it will be like a doctor saying that patients are a challenge,” says Kamyla when asked about the difficulties she faces at work. With a background in women’s reproductive and sexual health, Kamyla has worked extensively in the NGO sector including the Agha Khan University and is a founding member of ‘Aahaang’. The work she does is related to improving healthcare systems in the country.

On a personal front Kamyla talks about the difficulties of managing kids and work. Even though her children are now in their teens she still struggles with striking that balance. However Kamyla emphasizes that it has been easier for her. It becomes extremely tough for women who don’t have the kind of support system that Kamyla has been fortunate enough to have. She goes on to talk about how financial independence is a key enabler for women. “I can’t emphasize that enough. A woman should know that she can earn her own money and doesn’t have to put up with things she doesn’t have to put up with. It can be an extreme situation where she’s in a violent relationship and facing abuse or smaller things where the house needs double financing from both the spouses to be able to run it smoothly. A woman should have choices and those choices are promoted when she has the ability to earn money and the emotional independence to walk out if something is not working.”

Kamyla advices young women to start thinking about their personal futures early on. “Often young girls will get into a marriage and will want to give it their all. They are taught from a young age about how they have to be good wives, good mothers, take care of the house etc. It’s important that girls are taught the importance of being confident and building relationships based on equality.” She says that men have it easier in positions of power because being assertive is easier for them. Even women don’t accept other powerful women easily.

Kamyla recalls with a hint of sadness the time when she started working for an organization that was not doing well and she sincerely wanted to bring about change. “There was constant conflict. I wasn’t allowed to bring in change by people who didn’t understand the need for it. Eventually I realized that there is no use flogging a dead horse. That experience gave me immense learning but the moment when I realized that I will have to accept defeat and move on was a very difficult moment for me.”

Kamyla has met many women during her work who were victims of domestic abuse. She sees women blaming themselves all the time and not having the right support system to lean on. “I used to work in a low income community called Essa Nagri. I remember knocking on this woman’s door and going in and she narrated how her husband beat her up, often twice a day. Any small excuse before leaving for work and coming back home would result in a beating. I was quite young and my immediate response was why don’t you just leave? She looked at me and said where would I go? My parents don’t want me back. I have 4 children, where would I go? And I really didn’t have an answer for her. Where would she go?”

Kamyla continues her struggle for the betterment of women and her work is tougher than many would imagine. But with her sense of empathy and the strength to face difficulties, she powers on. “Women are dying every day. They don’t receive quality care. There are taboos around their health issues. There are immense difficulties in terms of cost and accessibility. Is that my personal challenge? Maybe not. But it is the challenge I work with.”

Kamyla is an example of a great woman who stands for other fellow women. Without such empowered, educated and strong headed women in our society, females cannot progress. With Kamyla we have hope and a future for the young women of our country who not only want to survive but also live.