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Gender Equality Echoes In ‘Sar Buland’ Musical Video

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We are a society that sees the girl child as a burden, something to be deeply ashamed of, or to be indifferent towards. This prejudice pervades throughout South Asia, even across class structure, and is embedded not just in culture but in politics too.

In 1972, when Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were negotiating at Simla, the code for successful conclusion of the talks was “Beta hua hai” (a son is born). This was despite the fact that Indira Gandhi herself was a woman and Bhutto was accompanied by his eldest daughter Benazir. The birth of boy child is presumed auspicious and the girl child otherwise. This is the prejudice with which a girl child grows up.

The parents always pray for a baby ‘boy’ to be born. The birth of a baby girl is presumed unfortunate and although many societies have grown past the stigma, the situation has not changed much in subcontinent.

This is why the song “Sar Buland” (head held high) composed and sung by Ali Hamza, is both fresh and emotive – a father feels proud as his daughter learns to walk with her head held high. Girls cannot award themselves accolades, security or protection, instead they must be provided these gifts by fathers. The greatest gift is that of independence itself –  a sense of outgrowing the patriarchy. The concept of the video and direction is by Samar Minallah Khan, lyrics by Irfan Ahmad Urfi, and production by Irum Ahsan. The video is part of the advocacy campaign under the Legal Literacy for Women Project by the Asian Development Bank.

The video shows a baby girl born to a young father who while celebrating the birth vows to take on the world for her. The girl is raised as a sensitive yet stronger citizen of this society. A citizen who is able to give back and fight for the oppressed. She grows up to become a self-confident lawyer who fights cases of oppressed women for protecting them against domestic violence, and getting them their inheritance rights.

The acting is subtle, the vocals strong and powerful, and the storyline simple enough to stick to the frontal lobe forever.

The young woman achieves against the backdrop of the inhospitable workplace environment – with her head held high unapologetically. 

The video then cuts to the father, now greying, who looks at his daughter with a sense of pride, congratulating himself for a job well done.

Speaking of the significance of the video on violence against women in society, Samar Minillah said: “A girl is not a threat to honour but in fact, she too can make this country proud if we start investing in her at domestic, community and national level.”

The term ‘Sar Buland’ (head held high) is refered to both the father and the daughter – to father for standing besides his girl and giving her strength and the daughter for living the dream. The father frees his daughter from societal subjugation by checking his own privilege and sharing his power with his daughter.

The best a father can do for a child, especially a girl child, is to instill the confidence that she is no less than a boy. And that she can achieve whatever goals she sets for her if granted father’s emotional investment.

An old greying father knows that he has done right by his daughter. He equipped her with the tools necessary to face the world at her own terms without being intimidated or discouraged because of her gender.

We have many such examples in Pakistan where a growing number of young women are now joining the workforce as lawyers, businesswomen, engineers and fighter pilots.

Many of them overcome resistance with the love and devotion of parents, the kind we see in this video. The message here is that with parental support, she can overcome any challenge in her life.

“So it is important to shed light on those silent allies; to bring their example to a larger audience; to showcase them as everyday heroes and role models,” said Samar.

We need more fathers who are willing to say that they would take on the world and break social norms by encouraging their daughters to play their rightful role in society.

Perhaps at some point in time, from leaders of India and Pakistan, preferably not in the aftermath of a war, echoes the code word for successful negotiations, “beti hui hai” ( a girl is born). In our society, the birth of a girl child will be celebrated as much, if not more, as that of a boy child.

Society as a whole will stop looking at parents of girl children as less fortunate and realize that gender matters much less than a child’s character, ambition and commitment to fair play and justice.

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Naya Daur