Child sexual abuse is one of the ugly realities of our world. Be it Madiha, Hooznoor or so so many beautiful, innocent children who have been sexually abused in our part of the world, whenever an atrocious crime like this is committed, it results in a lot of hue and cry which dies out after 3-4 days. What we need is a more proactive solution to the menace.
Ashhad Ahmed Qureshi, a young Pakistani based in the United States has taken up an amazing initiative and has written a children’s book in Urdu to help educate kids about sexual abuse. It is an illustrated guide to help children understand what sexual abuse is.
‘The driving force behind the book was the countless heartbreaking stories that I had heard from friends and family or my work on the sexual assault hotline of children being sexually abused and having no access to the support they deserved and needed.”
Having gone through sexual abuse himself, he understood the importance of having these talks with the children – for the little ones to understand concepts of personal space, good and bad touch. “My story is one of them. As a child, I was sexually abused for years by someone in my extended family. I remember how confused and helpless I had felt. I had so badly wanted to do something about it but I didn’t know what and I didn’t know how—I had never had these conversations about body boundaries, personal space, or safety planning with my parents before or anyone else for that matter. I was not the exception: these conversations were (and still are) taboo and highly stigmatized. But my story is just one of countless others. I was privileged in that when I was able to finally disclose to my parents, I was able to get the support I needed to heal, but I know many others are not so lucky. This is why I wrote this book—it is a book I wish I had had growing up. And I dedicate this book to all survivors out there, those who are finally able to live freely, those who are still struggling, and those who are still suffering silently. I hope all of us can recover and live the lives of happiness, love, respect, and support that we deserve.”
He created the book after much due diligence. He not only trained for how to deal with the topic with the utmost sensitivity but also read up a lot of books from various countries that were dealing with the same topic. “Most of what I read though, was not suitable for a Pakistani context. Not even the language could be translated to Urdu easily. We don’t really have words in Urdu for personal space, body boundaries, and so on, at least not for everyday use. You can translate them for sure, but it would not carry the same meaning. I had to really think about how to convey the same concept but in a way that would be understood by everyone.”
The illustrations are a work of the talented Aziza Ahmad, who has really brought the book to life. “Even this was a lengthy process. I wanted to make sure each illustration was intentional; the characters in the book needed to be representative of the community they were for. And fortunately, Aziza and I were always on the same page; she had the same vision for the book as I did. During the illustration process, individual illustrations were also field tested with mental health workers and community members, who provided insightful feedback on how they wanted the characters to look like.”
As expected, not all publishing houses wanted to take up the manuscript for printing. In the end Daastan Publishers were brave enough to team up with Qureshi to not only ensure its publication but also worked tirelessly to ensure that it reaches as many people as possible. This book is a call to action, to educate ourselves and our kids, to leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of our children.
The book is called “Mera Jism Mera Hai” and it is rriced at Rs.275. You can buy a hard copy of the book here