She is a classical dancer, a teacher, drama artist and a women’s rights activist too. Apart from all that, she is a warrior too. Her vigorous contribution doesn’t only lie in promoting dance and theater, but also to create awareness about women’s rights and their status in the society. She talks about some serious women issues and about her organization too. She holds different perspective as an artist. She believes in molding society through cultural activities and art. She also talks about Pakistani feminism and the struggle going on. While talking to The News Tribe (TNT), she was like:
TNT: How do you define a purely sensational, empowered and courageous woman?
Sheema: I define it as a woman who is financially independent, self sufficient and the one who is capable of making decisions about her own life.
TNT: Discuss some of the issues that Pakistan women have and what would you suggest for them?
Sheema: In Pakistan women are living in many centuries. There are areas where women’s lives are almost the same as medieval times: they are considered less important than the animals; there are areas where women have no say in any matters; then there are areas where you will have women who are working alongside of the men folk. The biggest problem that women in Pakistan face is the impact of religion- how it is conceived and interpreted and manifests itself in anti women ways. This fanatic religiosity and fundamentalist approach that gives women a second class citizenship in this society, is not good. I feel that when women become economically independent they will be able to enforce their equality and achieve an equal status in society.
TNT: How is it possible for our women to move forward and manage all the obstacles in their way?
Sheema: Women will have to break their bonds, reinvent their lives, teach their daughters to be independent, give them education and professional skills. Of course all this is not easy but we must remember that the suffragettes suffered torture, imprisonment and made all sorts of sacrifice before they won the vote. So once women decide that they want to change their lives it is certainly possible to be able to do it and fight all the obstacles in their way.
TNT: Out of all the dance kinds that you perform, Bharatnatyam and Odissi, and Kathak, which one you love the most and why?
Sheema: I love all forms of dance. It is difficult to say which one more than the other. I think all these three styles have their own charm and aesthetic beauty. For myself I find that Odissi is closer to my temperament and suits my body more and that is why I chose to specialize in this style. It has an interesting mix of the north and south music and is based
on illustrating poetry.
TNT: As a dance artist and choreographer, what main obstacles did you face in your way while performing in Pakistan and how did you cope with them?
Sheema: Well the main obstacle is religious fundamentalism and the attitude towards culture/performing arts where dance is lowest on the ladder.
Besides this social taboo, the other problem is the fact that it is difficult to make a living as a serious artist in this society. I decided that I want to be a dancer and I believed in myself, in the truth inherent in dance. I decided that material gains
did not interest me and that there is nothing more beautiful than this form of art.
TNT: Tell something about Tehrik-e-Niswan.
Sheema: I formed Tehrik-e-Niswan in 1979. It is basically a cultural action group and works in multidimensional directions. Performance art is the main emphasis with special focus on Women’s Rights and the Rights of the Oppressed. Theatre both proscenium and community theatre; Dance- classical, folk, traditional and modern; TV and video
films; these are the various aspects of the work of Tehrik-e-Niswan.
TNT: Also tell something about Aseer Shahzadi. What was response on it?
Sheema: Tehrik has produced many documentaries, video films, serials and music videos. It was one of that.
TNT: What is your message to readers?
Sheema: Culture is very important for the development of a society and we must give more importance to our cultural life. It can work as an alternative system of education and help to give people awareness of their rights.