This International Women’s Day 2022, we sat down with Madiha Latif, Pathfinder Senior Program Officer in Pakistan. Madiha joined Pathfinder in 2019 and works at the intersectionality of gender, climate change, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. At Pathfinder, she leads technical and operational support to select Pathfinder projects in Pakistan. Find out why she is so passionate about this work and why women’s leadership matters.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Why are days like this important?
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate diversity and continue to build on the global momentum of challenging inequities and biases that continue to exist. It’s one of the few moments that voices of people from all over the world are united, and pushing the same agenda, at the same time. I think days like this create a ripple effect that transcends borders and beliefs.
What got you into sexual and reproductive health and rights? What would you like to achieve?
I realized as a young woman that the systemic and social control over our bodies was directly linked to our agency. And to take back our agency, we had to find ways to exercise our rights over our being and existence— and that’s what has drawn me to this work. In an ideal world, I would want people to be free to exercise their choices, their preferences, be comfortable and secure in their existence, and live their lives freely.
Why do we need more women in leadership roles? Why is it essential to have women’s leadership in adapting to climate change?
Having women in leadership is important. It demonstrates how leadership is evolving—the parameters or qualities of leaders have expanded. Given the structural barriers women have faced, evidence backs up the theory that women are more likely to coach, mentor, and build collective movements that are supportive and inclusive. Women’s leadership in climate adaptation is essential, for instance, as they are the ones that can bring collective change that is holistic and sustainable.
How is Pathfinder empowering women in your home country?
Pathfinder Pakistan applies a gender-transformative approach to its programs. We ensure that gender inequities are challenged meaningfully within local communities, and men and boys are engaged to promote equitable practices that support women’s empowerment.
What role do men play in the pursuit of equality and how do you incorporate them into your work?
It’s important to engage men in the pursuit of equality—as gatekeepers and beneficiaries of the patriarchal system. At Pathfinder Pakistan, we conscientiously engage men in conversations that highlight the inequities and barriers faced by both men and women—and how this manifests differently and puts women at a disadvantage.”
For example, we did an exercise on the burden of care with men and women, asking them to identify what roles men and women have in their households. This triggered a conversation between participating men and women about disbalance. It was an opportunity for them to reflect on how men can be better allies and provide more support.
How can women support/mentor other women in the workplace? What changes need to happen to ensure more women’s leadership in key roles?
Women can support other women through mentoring and providing opportunities for growth. Women can engage each other by:
- Sharing knowledge
- Supporting capacity building
- Building trust
- Providing spaces for leadership
- Encouraging the development of ideas
It’s also important for women in leadership positions to foster inclusive and safe places that create a supportive environment for women to grow.
What advice do you have for aspiring women leaders?
Know your boundaries, stand your ground, and support and respect your team. No idea is wrong, and you have to take risks.
Learn more about our work in Pakistan >>