Shamim Akhtar has a small but mighty presence. All of five feet, she holds herself with a self-possessed reserve, wearing a bold red, tie-dyed hijab with lipstick to match. She speaks fast but deliberately, commanding attention. She has always been confident. This confidence, she says, comes from being raised as a boy.
The eldest of eight children, Shamim was born in 1983 in Molvi Abdullah Mari, a rural village in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Her family belongs to a Baloch caste, a conservative and patriarchal sector of society where men traditionally take precedence over women.
“Life was not easy for me,” she said. “When I was born, the girls weren’t allowed to go outside.”
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