Meet The Student Tackling Gender Inequality In The Pakistani Community

Kiran Tasneem

Gender inequality is an issue that has sprung to the forefront of social activism over the past few months, but the current representation of feminism isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Kiran Tasneem, a Photography student at The Arts University, Bournemouth, is working on 'Veil', a project focusing on the gender inequality in the Pakistani community. Her work depicts women dressed in traditional Muslim clothing and blending almost completely into the background of the picture, which she told HuffPost UK: "forces the viewer to think about how women may be treated in society, how some do not have a say, and that oppression is not necessarily a result of the culture they are born into".

With inspiration stemming from artists such as Shirin Neshat and Sara Shamsavari, Tasneem started 'Veil' by conducting interviews with both men and women, asking for their opinion on the role of females within society. She said that her findings frightened her, because many of her interviewees told Tasneem that women should stay at home.

"Whilst many individuals were encouraging gender equality, there were still a high percentage opposing it, believing that the role of the female was to be at home cooking and cleaning," she said. "This is where my idea of the wallpaper metaphor was born."

An image from 'Veil'

It was her childhood spent in Oxford which showed Tasneem Pakistani women faced an even greater degree of gender inequality than she felt was present in other societies: "By choosing not to only wear shalwar kameez and opting for a creative arts career instead of the traditional ‘accountant or teacher’, there were early signs that I didn’t belong or accept the lack of equality that I had witnessed and experienced during my early years."

Much of the criticisms on modern-day feminism have focused on the lack of representation for women of ethnic minorities. Tasneem said that with 'Veil', she hopes to help people acknowledge that women in the East of the world are gaining more independence, and to challenge the viewer "to think beyond misconceptions created by the West".

So far Tasneem has received mainly positive support for her project, from people who have found it encouraging that someone is wanting to raise awareness of gender inequality in the close-knit Pakistani community. However, she found that some of her subjects requested that their identities be hidden, as though they believed what they thought was wrong.

While 'Veil' itself focuses on religion, Tasneem said that she didn't believe the issue wasn't limited to just one area of life: "I do not believe that this is an Islamic issue.. it is a cultural issue".