The earthquake that shook Pakistan and Kashmir in 2005 killed thousands and left millions homeless. Pakistani-American Nausheen Dadabhoy felt it was her responsibility to give a voice to those affected by the earthquake. Through visits to hospitals and camps, Dadabhoy met Ruqiya and Khalida, two women whose lives had changed due to the disaster.
In “The Ground Beneath Their Feet: A Tale of Pakistani Women,” Dadabhoy presents the story of these two women, who courageously had to redefine their lives after being injured in the earthquake. Having to renounce to the traditional roles prescribed in some sectors of Pakistani society because of their disabilities, Ruqiya and Khalida have to reconsider their lives as disabled women in a society that values women as able-bodied homemakers and mothers.
MMW: Could you tell us more about your inspiration to tell the story of Ruqiya and Khalida?
ND: As a Pakistani-American I was deeply affected by the tragedy, and as a filmmaker I felt the need to go to Pakistan and tell the story of those affected by the disaster.
Two weeks after the earthquake, I arrived in Kashmir and toured the affected area. I visited many Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps and makeshift hospitals. When I got to the Melody Relief and Rehabilitation Center (MRRC) in Islamabad, the situation of the patients struck me as tragic and in need of more attention. The MRRC is a clinic for women who suffered spinal cord injuries during the earthquake and are now paraplegic.
I knew that the women at the MRRC had now lost value in society. They would not only struggle with their new disability, but also need to redefine their roles as women. Though I was born and raised in the United States, as a Pakistani woman I know the difficulties that these women face. By deciding to become a filmmaker, I chose a non-traditional career path, and in doing so I faced many challenges from my culture. The women at the MRRC are forced into a position of challenging their culture, not by choice, but by circumstance.