Image credits: Sarwat Gilani – WOW360.pk
As an actor, we have seen Sarwat Gilani in some impactful roles. She has portrayed strong female characters, different to the norm in the popular web series ‘Churails’ and ‘ Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam “. She also starred in Saim Sadiq’s film Joyland, which breaks gender stereotypes and was selected for the Cannes Film Festival and won the jury prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. It was also the first Pakistani film to be shortlisted for the best international feature film Oscar.
She is an artist, entrepreneur and a vocal activist and supporter of women’s rights. Married to prominent plastic surgeon Fahad Mirza, Sarwat is the mother of two beautiful children.
In addition to advocating social issues, she is the ambassador for Special Olympics Pakistan and Indus Hospital Health Network,
Given her dynamic personality and expertise, we were able to gain some interesting insights and perspectives on women in an interview with Sarwat as part of our Women in Leadership series.
Leadership: An Innate Quality
Sarwat Gilani believes that leadership comes from within, and while you can train yourself to some extent, you are born a leader.
In her reel life, we have seen Sarwat Gillani portray influential roles based on women who defy norms and step out of the cliché roles. She enjoys taking up strong feminine roles in projects like ‘Churails’ and ‘Qatil Haseenaon ke Naam’ because they are hardly ever penned down. She loved working with directors like Asim and Meenu because they let you be and hire you not to represent a thought but because you have thought yourself.
“I feel that a few times in my career in the Pakistani television industry, whenever I was given a strong woman portrayal, I got excited and I wanted to do that character with all my love and effort and manufacture the character with a lot of hard work because I felt like that was very ‘me’.” She shared.
On the other hand, in real life, she considers herself a leader and likes to lead and have things organized and executed (go) a certain way.
The Greatest Challenge Women Face in Obtaining Leadership Positions According to Sarwat Gilani
The single biggest challenge women face in obtaining leadership positions is that their male colleagues undermine their multi – tasking abilities as a mother, wife , household figure.
According to Sarwat Gillani, a woman may be disregarded when it comes to leadership positions as people assume that they will not be able to do justice in executing tasks because of her other responsibilities. The fact that she may need to take maternity leave or days off because of her regular cycles may also be considered a hindrance.
“Enabling Ecosystems Build Leadership” Fatima Arshad, Unilever
Relatable, Inspirational Role Models: Telling the Untold Narratives of Pakistani Women
Pakistani dramas and films can portray unbelievable women who are around us, and many of them are just unsung heroes. There are many women whose achievements, struggles, journeys, and stories have never been told.
I’ve been constantly saying in a lot of interviews that we need to reach out to those women who are around us who we know and sometimes don’t even know what know of their work.
According to Sarwat Gillani, we need to show these success stories because they are real and they are exemplary examples around us and our youth.
Our younger generation needs to see how a woman or a girl in Pakistan fights for her rights and fights for a position in her life where she’s appreciated, acknowledged, and given her due respect.
It’s very important to see inspirational figures and not derogatory figures that are centred around jealousy, scheming and extramarital affairs. There are exceptional women around us and we need to tell these stories instead, she stressed.
The Qualities of a Good Leader: Self-Awareness, Confidence, and Self-Acceptance
Sarwat Gillani believes that if a leader is self-aware and comfortable in their skin. Knowing that you can make mistakes and learn from them are qualities leaders should have.
Leaders should be able to take critique and be able to critique other people without offending them or a situation. A leader is somebody who is very grounded and has great faith.
If a leader has great faith, worldly things don’t affect them.
Diversity & Representation in Leadership
Gillani suggests that we can address the lack of diversity and representation by speaking up, knowing the laws that protect us, and being aware of the rules and regulations that protect us.
Sisterhood is very important, especially in Pakistan where there are a lot of patriarchal mindsets. She encourages speaking up for oneself and for those who cannot speak for themselves and having a mindset of elevating and evolving together rather than just solely or individually.
Be the change you want to see
It’s essential to accept that Pakistan is a diverse country where a lot of religions and cultures live together, says Sarwat Gillani. Until we do not come together as a nation, as a community, and as a society, we will always be segregated and bifurcated by our differences.
We should appreciate our differences and work with our differences using them as a strength and not considering them our weaknesses.
Contributions of Social Attributes Towards Gender Equality & Women Empowerment
Sarwat Gillani believes that although there has been some progress in accepting women as leaders, there is still a pervasive sense of inferiority towards women. Many people don’t like taking instructions from women and have an innate feeling of superiority towards men.
However, it’s worth noting that many women in leadership positions have received support from their male family members, such as spouses, fathers, or brothers. This support from family members is often critical in helping women become leaders, as it creates a foundation of acceptance and encouragement from a young age.
In her opinion, parents play a vital role in shaping attitudes towards gender equality. Mothers, in particular, can use their role as a parent to teach their sons that women and men, boys and girls, are all equal. This kind of mentality starts at home, and the more we talk about it at our dining tables and in the content we expose our kids to, the better chance we have of creating a more equal society.
Women in Leadership: Leading with Confidence & Compassion
The Role of Men in Advancing Gender Equity
As a mother of two boys, Sarwat Gilani emphasizes the importance of teaching gender equality at home, especially to sons, from an early age. Parents need to discuss the significance of gender equality with both genders.
She also highlights the need for families, particularly fathers, to recognize and acknowledge the achievements of their daughters.
instead of calling their daughters “brave sons,” parents should proudly say, “she’s our daughter, and we are very proud of her.” This small change can make a significant difference in promoting gender equality.
The articles, podcasts, and impact videos by WOW360 (in strategic partnership with SEED Ventures ) serve as additional learning material for the British Council Women in Leadership (WIL) Programme.
These materials provide a local context that is essential for participants to have a deeper understanding of the content they have learned. They also offer diverse perspectives on how leadership is reflected at the grassroots level, and at higher management and are designed to benefit both facilitators and participants of the WIL Programme