Author: Neelam Hussain
As part of the South Asia Hub of the Pathways to Women's Empowerment Research Programme, 'Changing Narratives of Sexuality: Trajectories of Desire and the Mediation of Socio-Cultural Spaces' this action research project was designed to examine discursive changes and their impact on women's lives/identities in areas related to (i) religion specifically the global upsurge of religious fundamentalisms and resurgent patriarchies with reference to the rise of Wahabi Islam as a hegemonic discourse, new religious practices and women in Pakistan and (ii) the media, predominantly satellite television, in the wider context of technologies, consumerism and globalization. The project aimed to identify and uncover new pathways and sites of change in the two areas mentioned above by using different methodological techniques. The project was expanded by the Simorgh Lahore Partnership to include traditional religious practices and rituals in the religious component so as to deepen understanding of the processes of change that are underway to see how far they are conducive to women's empowerment and to what extent they merely reformulate and reinforce existing norms regarding women's status and position in society. In the process, it examines the ways in which these factors shape women’s identities and self perception. The focus of the research was on 'new' women: on those whose horizons have changed imperceptibly due to force of circumstance and/or changing contexts shaped by the multiple forces of modernity such as access to education and the job market, upward mobility, consumerism and the dictates of a free market economy in a globalized world, as well as those who have made conscious choices to cross conventional boundaries.