‘Mera Jism Mera Hai’ | Pakistan’s first book that educates children about sexual abuse

The first-ever book in Pakistan to help educate children about child abuse is here.

Cases of child abuse are on a horrific rise in the country. Whenever such news comes forward, a lot of voice is raised for justice but there are barely any outcomes, which is why the cycle keeps on repeating itself. And despite hundreds of cases of child abuse being highlighted by the media on a daily basis, parents and the elderly are still reluctant to talk to the younger generation about it.

Child abuse is considered taboo. The prime reason why the issue is ignored is because of the ‘lack of education’ and communication barriers between the two generations.
However, all hope is not lost, as a young Pakistani from the United States has decided to play his part in educating children regarding sexual abuse. Ashhad Ahmed Qureshi has come up with a book to raise awareness on this sensitive topic.

How the book came together

While talking to a reputable media outlet, Ashhad said that the motivation behind writing the book were the heartbreaking incidents of child abuse, he heard from his work on a sexual assault hotline. He further said that these children had no proper support.

His own personal experience was a primary reason for writing the book. He considers himself a ‘privileged’ kid, who had the support of his family in this aspect, unlike many.
The boy opened up about his own experience in detail. He talks about being in the shoes of such children himself. He was sexually abused for years and the abuser was from his extended family. He felt helpless because he had no idea what to do.

He never had a discussion about ‘personal space, body boundaries, and safety planning’ with his parents. However, once he opened up to his parents about his story, they were very supportive. But, this is not the case for every child who endures the same.
He dedicates this book to ‘all the survivors, who are finally living freely or to those still struggling and to those suffering silently’

How the book got published

After writing the manuscript of the book, he got in contact with the Program Manager at the Community Engagement Center at Indus Health Network, Fahad Khan, who got Ashhad to work with a team of ‘clinical psychologists’. On a workshop with the psychologists, every word of the book was scrutinized. They made sure that the book was easy to understand, culturally appropriate, and respectful at the same time.

Fahad appreciated the boy and said that he ‘broke down a very complex conversation about consent’ into an ‘easy to read’ resource.
After amending the book in the desired way, it was sent to underserved areas in Karachi. The community members then provided their feedback on it.

The book was designed and illustrated by ‘Aziza Ahmed’. Aziza made sure that the characters represented the audience they were targeting. The psychologists also provided an insight into their idea, and how they wanted the characters to be.

What people had to say about the book

A renowned child psychiatrist, Dr. Syed Arshad Hussain, went through the book once the manuscript and illustrations were completed.

Qureshi also shed light on how he faced problems in publishing the book because most publishers did not agree on it. However, ‘Daastan Publishers’ were brave enough to publish the book and worked endlessly in the process.
Zahra Sarmad, Psychologist at the Mental Health Department at Interactive Research and Development appreciated Ashhad’s idea and hoped that the book reaches people in ‘masses’ and raises awareness.

Bilquees Idrees, the Outreach Coordinator at Indus Health Network, also spoke about the book. She said that although she has worked for sexual and reproductive health and rights, this experience was surely a unique one. She considers this book to be the ‘first step’ in the direction to deal with the issue.

The boy expects the book to be a household read for the young generation, a part of community outreach by NGOs, and also a part of the school curricula. Ashhad gave credit to every individual who worked for the cause and said that all of them worked day and night to play their roles in eradicating child sexual abuse. He thanked everyone for supporting him and said that he is confident and believes that ‘together, they can make a difference.’

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