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Calling herself as ‘Feminist’, Maliha is an artist and author of the book ‘Pakistan For Women’. Recently we landed on her page while searching for some inspiring young Pakistani talent to interview and instantly decided to know more about her passions and aims after peeking through some of her artistic work and details about her up-coming book.

This 23 years old artist hailing from Pakistan and living in England served as an author as well as an illustrator to her soon-to-be launched book.

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“Respect first, art second.” Reporting from my studio as I sit there, sleep deprived, finishing 1 illustration after another for the projects I believe or brands who respect art. As I log in to Instagram or Facebook, I at least once a day get message saying,” can you please draw me?” I hardly accept any commission work directly from individuals anyway as I work for platforms , originations or brands themselves but those messages, they sometimes follow with, “for free.” And I seriously wonder, what the hell? I wonder if they think that the supplies we artist use don’t cost anything or the hours we put into just planning something isn’t worth it or is it that people simply don’t have any clue on how an artist works? Being an artist is about passion but it is a job as well and even though I ignore most of the messages now, once in a blue moon I do get hurt for my fellow artist who get similar messages and take on the requests. Please respect artists and dear artists, respect your work enough to put a price on it. A while ago, I only did art for myself. I did not want to work for money at all because I find money to be a very messy business. #respectfirstartsecond Since I have started making art for others and I earn a buck or two off it, I feel a responsibility that I must deliver quality result and my process of even picking who I work with requires me to see if they respect my art or not. #RespectFirstArtSecond is a campaign I am starting for creatives, about creatives and they should be treated with respect and their job as an artist should be taken as any other job. It requires hard work and dedication. I invite you to share your experience as a creative and how you dealt with a time when you felt your art was being taken for granted. Every once in a while I will post something under this hashtag 🙏🏼

A post shared by Maliha Abidi🌙 (@maliha_z_art) on

We decided to ask her a few questions. Read on…

ChalkTalk: What is your educational background?
Maliha: I am currently studying Medical Neuro-Sciences at the University of Sussex. It’s a bachelors in science degree.

ChalkTalk: When did you discover your passion for arts and drawing?
Maliha: I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I got this passion of mine from different relatives of mine. I saw them draw or paint or do different kinds of artistic stuff, but they never pursued it professionally while I got a chance to pursue it professionally so I am very happy about it.

ChalkTalk: What makes you call yourself a feminist?
Maliha: Feminism, I feel like is art. Whenever anyone views any piece of art, they have their own perception about it. To me feminism is supporting women, vouching for equality when it comes to women because there is no doubt to that. Feminism to me is just empowering my fellow ladies and just because I stand for that, I call myself a feminist.

Chalktalk: What is the main aim behind your book?
Maliha: My main aim is to empower little girls in Pakistan to learn from examples of their own land.
I wanted to bring 50 examples for the current and next generation to follow because I myself got inspired by these stories.
Another reason behind writing this book is because Pakistan doesn’t have the best of importance in the world so I wanted to give people an idea that we have figured it out. We have problems but these are the strong women coming up with solutions and we do not oppress women.

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"Pakistan for women: Stories of women who have achieved something extraordinary" official Book Cover. This book is the first of its kind in Pakistan.such a book does not exist in the country yet.I am so glad to see all the support and love since the initial announcement of my book. Alhamdulillah. Every message of support makes my heart feel warmer and warmer. Pakistan for women is a book about more than 50 real stories of amazing women who belong to Pakistan and have achieved something extraordinary while making a difference. It consists of illustrations for each woman along side their stories. It celebrates women from all walks of life and is designed to inspire girls and help them understand the importance of women empowerment and feminism through these stories. It is seen at times that certain people discourage girls to go after what they are passionate about. In some cultures, basic right of education is denied as well. Awareness and cultural misconceptions play a big role in this. Excuses vary from honour to household responsibilities, although at times the reason told to those little girls is that they are in Pakistan and therefore they cannot achieve something because their country is poor or doesn’t have that many resources. In a way people make excuses for themselves at times and before even trying, they give up. This book consists of true stories of women, from mountaineers to astrophysicists to educators, and it advocates for the idea that if these Pakistani women can achieve their dreams through hard work and dedication, so can all the girls, reading their stories. These women are Nobel prize winners, are given "Pride of Pakistan", hold gold and silver medals and have been known even across borders for their incredible work and talents. To pre-order your copy, you can simply head to the kickstarter campaign, LINK IN BIO. Thank you GET IN TOUCH Email: [email protected] Instagram: #PakistanForWomen

A post shared by Maliha Abidi🌙 (@maliha_z_art) on

ChalkTalk: You are all set to launch your book, How long did it take you to compile it?
Maliha: It took me a little over a year. It was a long process and I can’t even imagine how I got through, but it’s really overwhelming specially towards the end. I laughed while writing this book, I cried, I was constantly overwhelmed but I never felt like giving up because it is spiritually driven by passion that I hold for women empowerment, art and creating through whatever inspiration I find around.

ChalkTalk: Did you face any struggles while pursuing your dreams?
Maliha: Alhamdulilah, I come from privileged. When I say privileged, I don’t mean many. I mean the privilege that I have had a lot of people around me who trusted my process and supported me constantly. For example, my father and my husband. These are the two most important men in my life and even though like I said earlier, Pakistan is known for men oppressing women but my reality stays that my father and husband and even my late grandfather, all men in my life have been supportive towards whatever I wanted to do. So I have been very privileged in that record though this doesn’t change the fact that there are many women who go through a lot of struggles to pursue their dreams and the reasons are a lot, but if you go through the stories in my book, these are the women that came up with different solutions to different problems around our country.

ChalkTalk: What is the perception of Pakistani women in international world?
Maliha: The usual perception is that our women do not have women rights especially in terms of education and what not, they are oppressed and our men are behind it. These things are true in some parts of our country, but not 100 per cent true because at the same time, there are many creative and brilliant ladies in Pakistan and I think they are the solution to many problems that people see around the world when they think about Pakistan.

ChalkTalk: What social stigma you hope will eliminate soon from the society?
Maliha: There are so many, but I think, just in terms of judgment for women who are working or don’t want to get married or those who don’t want to have kids right away. I think these are the kind of stigmas that are not letting women do what they want without judgment and the pressures that oh she is prioritizing herself or prioritizing her career. I would like to see it change rapidly, but a slow change is acceptable too. (laughs)

ChalkTalk: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Maliha: I see myself writing a volume 2 of ‘Pakistan for women‘ because I feel like there are so many up and coming inspirational strong women that I need to tell stories of. In 10 years Inshallah, Pakistan is going to be on another level as well. I also see my NGO running, I also aim to combine my studies of Neuro-sciences with my passion of arts and devote that to the improvement of mental illness, but also create a safe space for women where I can help them to creativity and art and do their skill just for fun. I think we still underestimate arts, but I know it has helped me through any problems that I faced in my life.

ChalkTalk: Any message you would like to convey to Pakistani Youth?
Maliha: A message I would like to pass on to the youth of Pakistan is that we all have a talent or we all have a platform so either you are a writer or an artist or just a person on social media, thanks to social media we all have a platform so I would like to encourage everyone to use it towards a cause that they believe in. You believe in women empowerment, you believe in refugees getting a better life, you believe in education, or believe in ending poverty, whatever you believe in, be vocal about it or start using your talent for that change. I think we as the youth are responsible for that because through the stories that I have written in m book, I have learnt that these women came from different walks of life but they were able to make a difference in the society. Mountaineers, Cartoonists, Doctors whatever their respected fields were, they were able to not only inspire change, but also brought together a lot of different people and made their life better as well.

We thanked Maliha for sparing some time from her super busy schedule and let us have a chit-chat with her. She has been very kind and we loved her responsive nature.

We wish her all the very best for all her future ventures.

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Taskeen Fatima is a post teenage adult and a computer science graduate. She is a passionate reader with a flair for writing. Mother to a boy and a freelance content writer by profession, she is also a thalassophile by nature and a mommy blogger by hobby!

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