Times of Youth

Exclusive Interview of Fatima Lodhi

I am a change activist, founder of “Dark is Divine”, Chairperson Women Empowerment of Rotaract District 3272 and Asia’s youngest anti-colorism and diversity advocate. –  Fatima Lodhi

For the past 5 years, I am not only working for the basic rights, inclusion and social acceptance of women with disabilities, but also those without disabilities. Back in 2013, I continued my struggle as an advocate of “Diversity”, to redefine the unrealistic concepts of beauty and by driving people out of the inferiority complexes. I have been doing so by conducting training’s and customized sessions, “The Skin We Live In”, for people belonging to different age brackets and backgrounds.

I have been a TEDxSpeaker thrice and I am the first Pakistani who has taken a bold stand against ‘Colorism’ & ‘Perfect Body Image’ notion by launching “Dark is Divine”- the first anti-colorism campaign from Pakistan, working on a global level, which aims to redefine the unrealistic standards of beauty that have been set by the society, by countering colorism & ‘Perfect Body Image Syndrome’.

I have developed Pakistan’s first manual on “Diversity” and have also written stories for kids on the same topic. My efforts were recognized as my name was recently added to the list of “Women Rights Activist” on Wikipedia along with many strong women across the world. I have also received “Women Excellency Award”, “Young Women Leader’s Award” and have been interviewed by and featured in different newspapers & magazines across the globe in appreciation and for the propagation of my work under “Dark is Divine”. Being an anti-colorism and diversity advocate, I have been featured in newspapers with Nandita Das, an Indian Bollywood actress. I was also selected as “Woman of The Week” by a U.K based Radio.

Times of Youth: Could you define ‘colorism’ for our readers? And what exactly is ‘pigmentocracy’?

Colorism is one of the words for a kind of discrimination that exists where light skin color is given more preference, is considered appealing and is more acceptable as compared to dark skin color. Colorism exists within the same race.

Whereas the word pigmentocracy is concerned, it defines the societies in which wealth and social status are judged by the skin color. There are many pigmentocracies across the globe, which have some stereotyped characteristic that claims that the light-skinned people have the uppermost social status. Whereas the brown-skinned, has middle positions, and lastly the black-skinned are at the lowest of the social ladder.

Times of Youth: How does it feel to be the first female from your country to support this cause?

It feels really great to be the first person who has taken a bold stand against Colorism by launching a proper anti-colorism campaign which is not only working in Pakistan but also across the globe!

Times of Youth: ‘Dark is Divine’, being your initiative against colorism, has been lauded well so far. Could elaborate more on its objectives and achievements?

Dark is Divine is the first anti-colorism campaign from Pakistan, working globally through a local action. A campaign that aims to transform Asia into a region where dark skin color is embraced with good grace as light-skin color, to the point where the skin color, body shape & body size of a woman ultimately have no importance. The campaign envisions a society in which equal treatment is given to everyone, irrespective of the color of their skin, size, and shape of their bodies & height, by redefining the so-called Beauty standards and the ‘Perfect body image’ that have been defined biasedly by the society.

Dark Is Divine believes that beauty cream advertisements unfairly assert that if women are light-skinned, they are flourishing. These advertisements teach young girls that their self-confidence and success depends on the structure, shape, and height of their bodies and especially on the lightness of their skin. Such unfair advertisements are responsible for emphasizing negative stereotypes, creating social inequalities and inferiority complexes that lead to depression and segregation from society. Instead, Dark is Divine celebrates the full spectrum of beauty.

Dark Is Divine aims to free the society of the mindset that beauty is color, shape & size bound. We do this by conducting sessions on diversity at the school level in order to help the younger generations internalize the idea that discrimination on the basis of skin color or personal appearance is morally wrong. Dark Is Divine has already conducted many awareness sessions through print and electronic media to spread awareness of the existence of colorism and Perfect Body Syndrome and to acknowledge that we, as a society, have to confront colorism honestly to eradicate it completely. Dark is Divine now has its own manual on “Diversity” and “Positive Body Image”.

Times of Youth:  So, what are your current endeavors with regards to activism?

We are conducting training sessions on “Inclusive Education” & “Diversity”.

Times of Youth: You were given the honor to speak about your cause at TEDx. Tell us more about it and how that went.

I have spoken thrice, at TEDx, and it has been an amazing experience. The response I received was tremendous and overwhelming. People, especially girls, could relate to the story that I shared during the Talk about “Dark is Divine”.

Q) Things we’d like to know about you-

I believe I don’t need any degree or any specific post for bringing a change that I want to bring; I want to make this world an accommodating place where respect for all is the must.

Times of Youth: Of all the awards you received so far, which has been the best and your biggest moment of pride?

The moment I got to know that my name was added in the List of Women Rights activists on Wikipedia, as the first Pakistani to address Colorism. In that list, I was the only activist after Malala Yousafzai under the heading of Pakistan! This achievement was more important than any other award for me!

Times of Youth: Considering the massive amount of time and efforts you put in, has your family been supportive of all the social work you do?

Luckily, I have got a very supportive family who is always there for me, especially when it comes to all my social work. I remember discussing the campaign with my parents, before launching it and they were all supportive and said “Go ahead”; one interesting thing that I would like to add over here is that the name “Dark is Divine” was actually suggested by my father!

Times of Youth: Do tell us one incident which totally changed your life/perspective.

I remember the day I was giving an interview regarding my campaign “Dark is Divine” to a state channel and there I also shared my story of discrimination that how I was discriminated on the basis of my skin color and when I was done with the interview, I received a text message from an old friend of mine, saying that today I feel embarrassed to call you my friend, I can’t even tell anyone that you are my friend, and its only because you made fun of yourself and those around by sharing your story of discrimination on a state television. That day I realize that this is the reason why there are so many stories that are still untold because we don’t support our people, our girls!

Q) What is the first word that comes to your mind when you read the following-

Times of Youth: According to you, what changes or other implementations should be made regarding women empowerment across the globe to truly empower women?

According to me “Empowerment” is such a vague term and is somehow misunderstood throughout the globe. When we talk about empowerment, we first need to realize that the same techniques of empowerment cannot be implemented on all the women. The notion of Empowerment differs from one society to another, from one woman to another. Empowerment to a woman who has faced a lot of discrimination throughout her life would be totally a different thing as compared to the woman who has not faced even a single problem throughout her life. If we start realizing this, the change would be witnessed there and then!

Times of Youth: We honestly believe that you have the power to bring a rational change in the world. If given a chance, what would you like to do to make this world place a better place?

If I get a chance, I would make sure that “Celebrating Diversity” becomes part of our cultures which would then be compulsory for us to practice.

Times of Youth: Any message to the youth via Times Of Youth?

Beauty comes in no predefined shade, shape or size!