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“Mustafa, Mustafa, Don’t Worry Mustafa…”

10 February 2014 Posted by 2 Comments

I arrived in Sri Lanka with the hope that I would gain some vital working experience related to my field (Biotechnology) that would also look good on my C.V, I mean nothing looks better than a foreign internship, right? For the first couple of weeks I was in limbo. The organization I came through (AIESEC) had set me up with a supposed youth network, the idea being that I would get the opportunity to work on many projects, at least that was what was promised at the first meeting. It was the furthest thing from an internship you can imagine, I was basically sitting at home and doing…. nothing.

Then I got a lucky break and met Hans, who helps run The Grassrooted Trust, and they offered me work for the few weeks I had left. That was more than enough for me after having spent my first two weeks practically just blowing money. The work I did with Grassrooted was somewhat closer to my field, it was to create and edit content for an upcoming HIV information project that they were dealing with, so it was a win-win situation; as an intern I would contribute to the completion of a specific project and help the team meet their timelines.

Enough of the back story, what I really want to focus on here are the differences between the cultures of Pakistan and Sri Lanka primarily focusing on the sex and relationship aspect, which Grassrooted helped expose us to also.

photoWomen are treated with a little bit more respect in Sri Lanka and that pretty much tells you about the state of affairs in Pakistan. I’ve heard all the sexual harassment stories especially on the buses. In fact a friend (and colleague) of mine experienced the packed bus rides more than she would have liked too. From what I’ve been told every woman who uses public transport has a harassment story and that is pretty much true in Pakistan as well regardless of the clothes they wear.

Another aspect I found interesting was that it was a much more open country than I had imagined; you could spot a couple nearly everywhere and I won’t even mention the island or whatever it is next to the Gangaramaya temple (although I just did). In terms of the interaction between men and women, society is much more open than what I’m used to seeing back home. I didn’t really get those conservative vibes in Sri Lanka.

Asides from that, any country which has people working for the rehabilitation and help of sex workers and HIV positive people is on the right track. There is much similarity in the perceptions of these groups between Sri Lanka and Pakistan but the difference is, in Sri Lanka at least, from what I’ve seen, there are people who are willing to change their minds and are ready to listen.

On a final note I have often tried to imagine what certain words or feelings look like, thanks to my experience with Grassrooted I finally have an image or memory for Liberation. It is the image of a person who identifies as transgender who chooses to be a woman dancing with carefree abandon, not concerned about what anyone will say and not really scared even if they do. It is this very event that makes me proud to have worked with the Grassrooted team. I would like to thank them all for being very warm and welcoming. Working with them really made me realize that maybe the world can be better and I can definitely say that the guys at Grassrooted are trying to make it better for people.

Mustafa Mehkary



  • demi said:

    Bravo Mustafa!

    It was an honour to work with such brilliant young minds. There is hope for humanity. Let’s change the world one person at a time.

  • Fajar said:

    Heeeey that’s me and Mahnoor 😛 but i totally agree with Mustafa here. Thank you Hans and everyone at Grassrooted for helping us out and giving us unforgettable memories 🙂

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