Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

By Fatima Asad

Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

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Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids


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8 responses to “Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?”

  1. Avatar Aisha says:

    My heart breaks for children like Uzma. Whenever I have visited Pakistan, and seen children workers, I feel shiver down my spine but it’s a business as usual for locals. Why? It is a sick sick culture, rotten to the core. No amount of patriotism can wash of the stench of its degraded state.

    • Avatar Fatima Asad says:

      Absolutely! I am continuously bewildered when I fail to convince people that true patriotism is working to improve the land you love and all those who share it with you.

  2. Avatar Alia Kamal says:

    I wish Imran Khan make rule like here in US . Minimum age to work 18 years. 14 ot 15 can work after school and no more than 3 hours also parent and kidz need to register with county.
    Punish hard whoever not following rules ..
    Only preaching to ppl or trying to make them God fearing muslims will not work.

    • Avatar Fatima Asad says:

      Yes, there definitely need to be clear passing and implementation of such laws. We can’t improve things on an individual level anymore and I think that is where my personal frustration lies.

  3. Avatar Dr. Rahat sayyad. says:

    Its heart wrenching to hear about such stories.
    May Allah grant her justice n punish the perpetrators.
    Its a lovely post…
    I have a toddler and a newborn.
    And i always have these questions in the back of my Mind tht how m i going to ans my kids wen a lil girl/boy knocks on the car window for money n y i am not giving him any….. Here in india the situation isnt much different. Children are not into house hold wrks as maids that much bt more into the begging industry. (Yes its an industry). May Allah help us all to do good tarbiyah of our kids ameen

  4. Avatar Zainab says:

    This is y islam has the policy of zakaat to keep the money revolving. If only we would oay zakaat many issues could be solved.

  5. Brilliant piece of writing. Riveting and perturbing at the same time!
    I hope and pray that we are able to raise our children in a way that they can rectify the aberrations of our society.

  6. Avatar a m malik says:

    One has to have a soft heart and to understand that the help do us a favour by doing the kind of work that is a shade difficult or hard for us to perform. The poor maasis who come to my house have to traverse distances in buses for more than hour and a half one way. The journey even one way itself would exhaust one leaving aside having to work immediately thereafter. But then they are looked after well. They would sit with us on the same table and have the same breakfast as us. They eat any thing they want from the kichen. We try to join in their moments of joy and struggle alike. This is possible bcz we know that they are doing “ahsan” to us and not vice versa. Allah is giving all the rizk to us bcz of them. This helps us a lot in trying to ensure that the helps are treated as a part of our own house hold. I would suggest to all to be mindful that we are lucky to be born in an afluent family. It could have been otherwise
    Regs Anwar

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