Interview of Tehmina Bokhari

Tahmena Bokhari, the 4th woman in history to be crowned Mrs. Pakistan World 2010 was selected in Toronto, Canada. The pageant that started just a few years ago is now focused on finding role models for representing married women of Pakistan in a new and bold way.

Tahmena Bokhari is a College professor, social worker, consultant to governments and organizations, public speaker and writer. She has over a decade’s experience working with governments, community organizations, and academic institutions and various diverse communities across the Greater Toronto Area and around the world.

1. How does it feel to have a title like Mrs. Pakistan World?

I feel very honoured to be the 4th woman in history to win this title.  I feel quite privileged to be among the women in the pageant who are beautiful, educated and who are really showcasing to the world how amazing Pakistani women are. Now, it is certainly very exciting to think of the year ahead.

2. What are your plans now that you have this new identity?

I am looking forward to working with the various people in the community at events, photoshoots, fashion shows and public speaking engagements. I am a living example of a Pakistani woman balancing career, family, pageants, culture and hobbies, and I want to talk to women everywhere about this careful juggling act we perform on a daily basis. I also want to discuss larger issues with those who are ready to make positive change.

I also want to address what may appear to be a contradiction, a dedicated social worker and feminist in a pageant. Yes, that is me, who would have thought?

For me personally, this is an opportunity to raise awareness on some very important issues that I have already spent over a decade working on.  These include social causes such as violence against women, the image of Pakistanis in the media and the global status of Pakistan. When I meet people is when I get asked questions and we begin conversations, conversations from which I hope to leave people with something new, inspiring and positive that they take back to their own lives.

I have already had women coming up to me to ask how I do this. They are often surprised to hear that I am also a professor and a consultant with a very active family life. And this is where the wonderful conversation starts about the possibilities for women that exist out there.

3. Pakistan’s pageant industry has developed since the last 8 years. The married section still needs a huge push. What change will you bring?

Yes, as mentioned I am the 4th woman in history to hold this international title. That is a success for the pageant but also an indication of how much further we have to go in the pageant industry where other international pageants for married women have been running for many more years. We certainly need more women from our community taking up this opportunity. 

I hope during my reign to showcase specifically to Pakistani women that this title can be a platform for you to have a voice in the international arena, for whatever your passions in life may be. I hope to stay true to my roots and make the community proud through the work I can do with this title. I also want to say that I hardly saw myself as a beauty queen, as the majority of my life was focused in other areas, and I think I am changing the perception people, both Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis, may have of what a ‘beauty queen’ is. I think the average woman can relate to me in this way.  With all of this that I bring, I hope to promote this title, raise awareness on the possibilities out there for married Pakistani women, and to encourage women to dream big.

4. What international pageants are you planning to enter?

I am looking forward to representing Pakistan on an international platform at the various pageants out there for married women such as Mrs. World and Mrs. Earth.

5. How will entering into the international pageant indusrty give a push to Mrs. Pakistan?

I think that representation in international pageants is important for Pakistan as a whole, and certainly for married Pakistani women. What does the world currently know about Pakistani women?

6. When you think of beauty, do Pakistani women come to mind? How do the international media define Pakistani women for us?

All of these are questions of which the answers to which we have an opportunity to shape by participating in international pageants.

It is also important to understand that pageantry is an industry like any other, show business, acting, modeling, fashion, even politics, with its own guidelines and culture. It is an area Pakistani women have traditionally not entered, so why should Pakistani women be left out of this when Pakistanis are moving forward in so many other fields, such as politics, law, fashion and so on?

7. As a Pakistani, and a moderate one, what is your message to the world about Paksitan?

Hhhmmm, I am not sure what moderate Pakistani means, although I can understand what a moderate Muslim may mean.

8. Where would you like to see the Pakistan pageant industry go in the near future especially for married women?

Well I would love to see more women join this industry and represent Pakistan on an international scale.

9. Any advice to the married women from Pakistan who would like to pursue pageantry?

Go for it! You have so much to offer the world, you are knowledgeable and beautiful, never forget that.

10. Any messages to married women in general?

Again, so many messages that you will likely hear throughout the year from me. However, most importantly, to married women, not just Pakistani, but of all cultures, you are just amazing with all that you do. I would say to take time for you as well. As women we are trained to give and we do as women give a lot of ourselves, but also remember to give back to yourself which in turn gives back to your loved ones. It is an interesting cycle that when we are happy, others around us are happy. So we have to allow ourselves to take care of us too.

11. How do you balance career, family, pageantry and all of the other life demands on you today as a married Pakistani woman?

This is a tough one, as ‘how’ is a never-ending negotiation based on what ever is going on at the time. Fortunately, I think, women are great multi-taskers and great at leading teams. I have a very supportive family and circle of friends around me who share in the responsibilities and joys of life. I think for women it is very important to have solid grounding in yourself, work on bettering yourself and taking care of yourself. 

Figure out a method that works for you to evaluate your priorities. These are different for all of us. Importantly, communicate with others in your life about your needs, ideas, dreams and ambitions. There is a message here for men as well, to support the women in your life. What has allowed men to ‘have it all’ if they choose such as a career and children and marriage and hobbies and so on? It is women! It is because of women who have historically been behind men, taking care of domestic issues, that then frees men up to focus on a career outside of the home. Similarly, for women to enjoy success in all of these areas, men must be supportive and shift their roles as well. 

We really have to work together.  As for me, I would say that I am a product of hundreds of years of family history and I credit many others for who I am today, the women and men in my life. I am humbled and grateful to have this support.  I am looking forward to talking more with the community on this and all of your questions.

12. Ok, so as a Pakistani, what is your message to the world about Pakistan?

Well, there are so many messages I would like to give as we are a vast, diverse and large group of people. Pakistanis, the people of Pakistan and those of us living abroad, are diffult to sum up in a few words or one picture, as we are so very diverse in our lifestyles, views, opinions, languages and histories. So importantly, to the world I say that a singular definition of ‘Pakistani’ will not do for over 170 million Pakistanis worldwide.  I encourage you all to explore this country and the people to discover our depths, complexities and our richness. “Pakistani” is a national identity to a homeland that was created in 1947 out of a movement for liberation to carve out a unique place.  The nation was founded by a man, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who stated the following in an international talk in 1948,

“Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fairplay to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims –Hindus, Christians, and Parsis –but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

So to the world I say, that like any other nation and culture, Pakistan has developed into a diverse and everso evolving society. It is important to remember that Pakistan is both a player and a product of international and historical politics and everyone has a stake in strengthening this nation. We must all work to support Pakistan and importantly to support more Pakistani women being in positions of leadership.

13. How can people learn more about you?

You can join my fan page Tahmena Bokhari on Facebook, And of course you can always google my name to see what’s new.

Thank you.

Tahmena Bokhari, the 4th woman in history to be crowned Mrs. Pakistan World 2010 was selected in Toronto, Canada.

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