Interview with Tanzila Khan
Inventor of Girlythings.pk
Q1) What was your family like while you were growing up?
We come from an agricultural, landlord, background. My father served in the army. I have my parents and then I have one elder brother. My brother doesn’t have any disability and my parents, too, Alhumdulillah, are both fine.
They have been really supportive. Of course, there are episodes where they don’t probably comprehend what we’re trying to do as millennials, we all are a bit crazy, not just me. But otherwise, I think, they’ve been very supportive in terms of risking it – not even understanding somethings but letting me go ahead with it. So, I would consider that to be very supportive.
Q2) Do you live in a joint family or a nuclear family?
No, we live separately, but I have a huge family from both sides because we come from a landlord background so, I think, mostly these families are large so I have a lot of cousins and a lot of uncles on both sides.
Q3) what is your academic background?
I did my O-levels from Garrison Academy for Girls. I was in an army school because my father was in the army, but, prior to that, I’ve been to many other schools in Lahore because aksar University ya koi bhi institute wheelchair accessible nahi hota, so, I would face a lot of challenges so of course my schools were changed a lot in terms of where the washroom would be or where the computer lab would be, etc. So, O-Levels from Garrison Academy for Girls, then A-Levels from LGS Defence. After that, I went to PIFD for a while to become a jewelry designer, but at that time I was rising as an international activist on Human Rights so I did not pursue that degree, but I got a degree from the University of London through correspondence in international development. I have a BSc in International Development, and now I’m pursuing a Law degree – getting a second undergrad as an LLB.
Q4) Has your Family been supportive in you pursuing your career?
Well, yes, more or less. It has taken time. A lot of persistence, a lot of discussions, sometimes very heated discussions. So, it takes its time, but family is family and family is definitely a top priority. It has been hard sometimes but overall, I think, I’ve managed it. I’m standing -sitting- here in one piece, recording this. So, I think, I’ve survived anything bad that came my way.
Q5) You’ve had medical problems. Would you like to elaborate?
Well, not exactly “medical problems”, but I was born with a deformity, so, yes, I’ve been to a lot of hospitals and I’ve had very extensive experiences with doctors because I would go around getting myself checked but physically, I’m perfectly healthy. There’s nothing wrong, I’m perfectly fine. All my systems are good – my reproductive system is good – everything’s fine. So, nothing very severe, just that I have missing limbs. That’s all. The only missing ability, Alhumdulillah, is my legs. That’s it. Otherwise, everything is awesome.
Q6) How long have you known about the medical issues.
I’ve known since birth because I was born with it.
Q7) How did you choose to deal with it?
Well, I think, with time we learn about the gifts that we have, we learn about the challenges, and then, we learn that there is respect when you fight those challenges with a lot of grace. It’s very easy to get dirty, it’s very easy to lose the grace and do things in a negative way. The worst thing you can do is lose hope, but if you hold on to the hope, it’s very graceful and that’s like a compliment to your creator that you’ve given me a challenge and now I’m going to use the power, the gifts, that you’ve given me to fight those. So, I think for me, my choice was to be graceful and not be like a burden or be like a damsel in distress -that she’s crying all the time. So, I think in that way, I’ve really tried to pick myself up and move forward with the world. I try to be a contributor, I try to be a leader, I try to be a good friend, and I think that’s it: life has been amazing!
Q8) How did it make you feel growing up?
I think growing up was a challenge. It is a challenge probably for every individual but for me to deal with peer pressure that a lot of things that other young girls were doing that I could not do. So that was a challenge but what I did was that I started doing my own thing. I started doing my own activities my own initiative so what happened was that they all started following me. So that’s when you realize that you have leadership qualities. So, no matter what your identity is that is holding you back you have to make that a gift of yours. I would start playing games that would be sitting games and then everybody wanted to play those games. I think it’s all very strategic and smart. You have to be smart around the resources that you have.
Q9) Tell us about your websites
My website is called girlythings.pk. We deliver feminine hygiene products to women at home. We also educate young women about menstrual hygiene and we’re really trying to stir a conversation and we’re trying to make sure it becomes a part of the discussion when it comes to women’s rights and women’s health aur humarey jo corporate systems hain ya jo educational systems hain vahan pe is cheez ko consider kiya jaye. Larki ki health ko jub consider kertey hain tou uski mental health ko uski menstrual point of view se bhi samjha jaye. That would be my long-term aim. I would also like every girl to have knowledge about her body, how it changes, how it affects her and how she doesn’t have control over her hormones but how to cope with all those changes, that’s in her control. So, I really want women to feel more confident about their bodies and have body positivity.
Q11) What are your other projects?
A) I have a lot of projects going on. There’s this short film coming up, Fruit Chaat, that I have written and it’s about disability. It’s a very funny video that everyone should watch. I can’t wait to bring it out. It talks about disabilities in a very light way so that is something I would want everybody to know about. And then I have this board game coming up, called A-Town. It’s a children’s board game through which you learn about disability through a very fun way. So that is coming up and then a lot of other good stuff happening, maybe lots of books, lots of content regarding creativity. So, InShahAllah, it’s going to be a great 2020.
Q12) What are the reasons behind these projects?
Reason number one is privilege. Like you and I are privileged. We speak in English, we had access to education which is our privilege. If we don’t use our privilege in the right way, then who else will? So, I think that just because I am privileged, I think I should put these things into right practice to make sure that I’m using my gifts in the right way. So, if you don’t use them, you’re actually misusing them.
Q13) As a working woman, what has been your biggest hurdle?
It’s really interesting, you know. Last year, I had not really dealt with issues in this depth because working in menstrual hygiene, you unveil a lot of issues with the vendors and the products. Like there are so many products in Pakistan that are sold at a full price but are actually fake. They were also offered to me, saying “do you want to make money? Sell these”. I replied saying that I cannot do that because it’s like a direct agent for causing cancer, so I’m not going to do this. That’s when I realized that it is happening across the globe. Maybe women don’t know that the products they’re using are cancerous. So, since I’m aware of this, I made sure I’m going to sell original products. And that’s a challenge because when you’re doing that, you probably aren’t making a lot of money as you’re buying the original products for a heavy price and are selling it for a heavy price so you might not make a profit. Having said that, I think there are a lot of challenges are faced when it comes to your integrity or respect. So, I think all of that is a huge challenge to move in this world. And when you’re a woman, sometimes people initially don’t take you very seriously. They tend to think that maybe she’s doing it as a hobby and he actual job is to raise a child, or get married and take care of the kitchen. Which is absolutely fine and it could be my actual job, and as a woman, I think that’s my gift – that added skill that I have. But I can be good at other jobs also. I can really use my other limbs as well other than just my womb and excel in other things because I’m as much a human as you are. So, I think putting that ideology forward is sometimes a problem. Like sometimes I’m meeting with investors and I’m talking to them, they type of look they’re giving me is the kind where it makes me feel that they’re thinking, “oh look she’s so cute, talking about million dollars, taking over Pakistan by creating channels for women”. I can see it in their expressions that it’s as if I’m a school girl who got a good grade or something, and they’re like a proud parent who would, in a short while, tell me to recite a poem for everyone. I think that is a challenge for me.
Q14) What has been the biggest blessing/help practically?
I think everything is a blessing. Having problems in itself is a blessing because they help you understand your own privilege which makes you feel grateful for things. My biggest help would be my faith in God, the fact that I am a Muslim and I believe in one God and his Prophet (PBUH) and the whole idea that God would reward you if you do the right thing. It has been a great motivator. If this thought wouldn’t have been there and had I not been a Muslim, I would’ve collapsed a long time ago. So, I think being a Muslim has really helped me; my beliefs, my practices have really helped me because I think being a Muslim is all about resilience. It’s all about coming forward, fighting, having the courage, feeling love and feeling special. This is what it’s all about to be a Muslim – especially a Muslim woman. So, I think being a Muslim has been my biggest blessing. God forbid if I had been an Atheist or had other beliefs, I probably wouldn’t have survived all the pressures of life
Q15) If you could go back, what’s the one thing you would change about your life and career?
I think I would change my diet a bit, like, growing up, I think I’ve had a really bad diet and now that I’m approaching my late 20’s-early 30’s, I think I could’ve done a bit better with my diet. So, I would’ve had a good health and I would’ve had better skin, better hair as well, because my mother keeps telling me that you have to eat healthy if you want to live good. She’s right because you are what you eat. She had an amazing diet when she was young, of course when she grew up she had access to healthy, organic, food which most of us don’t so we survive on junk food. So yeah, that’s the only thing I would change about my life. Other than that, every think has a reason, every person that comes into your life has a meaning; they all teach you something. Also, I would not have really long, meaningless, conversations with people. Sometimes it happens, you know, you have very long and meaningless conversations with people. So, when having a conversation, it has to be meaningful.
Q16) What is the one thing you would do differently for yourself?
I think I would discipline myself a little more. I think I really have the capacity to reach my maximum potential if try a little bit harder. There is room for improvement in terms of disciplining myself and organizing everything in my life. So, I would definitely discipline myself a little more and I would, for sure, try to be more organized about my projects.