The Catalyst team met with Mahnoor Ali Syed to discuss her upcoming article “Chador aur Chardevari: the Veil and Women’s Agency in Pakistan” in the upcoming Spring 2021 edition of Chrysalis. Her paper explores Pakistani women’s agency in choosing whether or not to wear the veil, and how the social context in Pakistan influences this process of decision-making.
Mahnoor is in her third year of her degree in International Development Studies and Economics. Mahnoor was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, where she started her non-profit work and activism around feminism and gender-based violence. Her academic and research interests at McGill also are focused around feminism in South Asia. She also runs the South Asian Collective at McGill, a club based on community-building, political engagement and sharing resources. Mahnoor’s publication experience includes being editor at Catalyst, staff writer at McGill Policy Association Journal and Executive Editor at Leacock, McGill.
Over the past semester, under the guidance of South Asian studies professors, Mahnoor has remained engaged in both academic and on ground work around gender based violence in South Asia. Her on ground work includes field work and research with women in over 20 rural areas in Punjab, Pakistan. Mahnoor is interested in studying the intersection of Law, Society, Economics and Politics of gender-based violence in South Asia in the near future as well.
Mahnoor wrote her article for a course titled “Islam and Politics” under the Islamic Studies Department. Mahnoor thoroughly enjoyed the content around Islam and Muslim women’s agency and the implications of the veil in particular. Even though, the course content focused on Middle East as the area of focus, Mahnoor decided to write her research paper on the veil and its implications for Muslim women in Pakistan. In her work, she covers work done mainly by South Asian authors and also discusses feminist resistance in Pakistan starting from Women’s Action Forum to the Aurat March.
Upon graduation, Mahnoor is hoping to continue academic and on ground work around interventions in gender-based violence in South Asian communities, nationally and internationally.
Video edited by Sena Lee.
Read the Spring 2021 issue of Chrysalis here.