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#Dukhtar: ‘Violence against women in Pakistan exists on multiple levels’ – Afia Nathaniel

A harrowing and poignant film about the horrors of child marriage and the status of women in Pakistan opens the 17th annual London Asian Film Festival tonight.

'Dukhtar' is the thrilling story of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter who flee their home in rural Pakistan after the youngster is promised in marriage to a local tribal leader.

Mom Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz) herself was betrothed to a much-older tribesman at the age of fifteen and she is determined that her daughter escapes the same fate, despite the appalling dangers she is bound to face as an unaccompanied woman with a young child in a lawless land.

As her outraged husband and men from her tribe embark on a pursuit that will almost certainly result in her death, the courageous and determined Rakhi flees and eventually hails down a truck driver, Sohail (Mohib Mirza) and lies to him about wanting a lift.

When Sohail learns of the real reason for Rakhi's flight, he is forced to decide whether he will endanger his own life to deliver mother and daughter to safety in Lahore.

The film is the debut feature of Quetta-born writer and director Afia Nathaniel.

Nathaniel spent nearly a decade cobbling together the financing for the film and endured everything from violence to sexism to bring the story to the big screen.

She spoke to the UKAsian during last year’s London Film Festival about her journey with ‘Dukhtar’.

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#OxfamINDIA: NISHA AGRAWAL – Fighting the Good Fight on Multiple Fronts

Nisha Agrawal has arguably the most thankless job in the charity business.

As CEO of Oxfam India, the career campaigner oversees a mammoth array of projects dealing with everything from disaster relief and humanitarian aid to gender equality and sanitation.

When she’s not fighting to overcome the crippling bureaucracy and rampant corruption that swirls around her work in the sub-continent like that thick smog that often envelopes New Delhi, Agrawal is travelling the length and breadth of India appealing for more help or, worst still, defending her organization’s work.

That problem becomes particularly acute when she travels to Britain where Daily Mail-reading Middle England tends to be skeptical about sending money to a country whose government spends public money buying Italian helicopters for “Very Very Important People” or sending spacecraft to Mars whilst a majority of its population subsists on a daily pittance.

Oxfam India is a fully independent entity one of 17 such organizations that fall under the Oxfam umbrella.

The charity, which is staffed by Indian nationals who also sit on its board, works in partnership with a staggering 180 different NGO’s across seven Indian states.

Its work is divided into four distinct segments: Economic Justice – improving the lives of marginalized communities; Essential Services, which focuses on education and health care; Gender Justice and Disaster Relief.

During a flying visit to London, the UKAsian’s editor Viji Alles caught up with Ms Agrawal to talk about accountability, poverty alleviation and the Anand Milk Union Limited or “AMUL”.

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