Wake-Up Call: How A Fashion Designer From Bannu Devoted Herself To Making Pakistan Kinder To Animals – The Friday Times

Sarah Gandapur is no stranger to the world of glitz, celebrity and red carpet hobnobbing. A household name in local fashion in the early 2000s, Gandapur has seen it all. From the presentation of her fashion brand to local and international fashion shows, from collaborating with some of the biggest names in the local fashion industry, from organizing events, award shows and running her publication with her sister, the stylist it was an integral part of an era when the media boom was at its zenith.

But it was in 2015 that something inside Gandapur clicked. A “wake up call”, he reveals, that changed his life forever. The sudden loss of her beloved mother – her best friend and closest confidant in a world of fickle friendships and good weather – Gandapur felt such a sharp loss, such a displaced personal identity, that she was forced to retreat into. .

His external environment seemed almost cruel in its glaring vitality in the absence of his mother … it was disgustingly unfair. Gandapur was inconsolable, but he had a clarity of both thought and action, a clarity that comes only after facing an immeasurable loss that forces you to reevaluate your life and the mechanics of your heart’s purpose.

“Although I have always felt an attraction to human rights and animal rights from the very beginning,” she says, alluding to her upbringing in which values ​​such as compassion for the less fortunate and the voiceless were instilled in her childhood, ” I started to seriously focus my attention more on the causes in 2015 ”.

Born in Bannu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in 1983, Gandapur reveals that she grew up in an animal-loving family, from her parents to her older siblings.

“My dad loved dogs,” she says, “He made us store food for strays and feed them whenever we could. Sometimes I think the older generation was much more compassionate to animals than we are.”

Saving animals since she was a teenager, Gandapur adopted her first stray cat when she was 15. From there began his lifelong mission to continue adopting strays in need. “Each animal has its own distinct personality, just like us humans,” he says, mentioning that at one point he had a total of 41 cats. Gandapur currently cares for 22 stray cats and dogs in his Lahore home.

“Animals are far more compassionate than most humans. God created them with as much feeling and emotion as we do. They have maternal instincts, they feel love, sadness, pain, depression, fear … they experience everything. When my mother died, I was in a bad situation. She was the love of my life. I never imagined losing it. But at the time, my oldest house cat, Chloe, knew something was wrong and would latch on to me wherever I went. Just like my other pets. They were around me all the time. It was what I needed to make it. There is a saying that the best love is in the eyes of the animal you saved. But sometimes we don’t save animals, they save them we. “

By adopting and rehabilitating strays over the years, Gandapur reveals that he has faced his fair share of ridicule and criticism.

“They say things like; in a country where there are no human rights, here you focus on animal rights! The fact is that no matter how hopeless man is, at least he can talk and ask for help … animals are completely helpless – they are they blessed. Someone has to do it for them and my goal has always been to be their voice. “

From visiting local educational institutions to give lectures and seminars on animal empathy, talking repeatedly about animal rights during his television appearances (on some of the biggest national talk shows), to working with government officials in Pakistan, Gandapur is a celebrity who has continued to use her power for animal welfare.

“It’s a struggle. But I believe in a higher power, I have placed my trust in God. As I say this, tears come to my eyes because He has taken away my most precious possession: my mother. He was an extraordinary human being. This restores my faith in humanity. While there are some people who may be worse than monsters, there are others who do selfless work for people, animals and their country “

“Even if the local animal shelters are doing a good job, we honestly have a long way to go,” he says. “However, it’s a good start. But we need more people with money, influence and a following of fans to accompany us on our mission. Because nothing comes from one-off awareness campaigns; you need to find long-term animal welfare solutions. Children need to be educated in animal empathy at home and in schools. I believe that those children who are cruel to animals become violent and emotionally unstable in their adult life ”.

Speaking of animal abuse that continues to occur in the home, including horrific cases involving the sexual abuse of animals, especially donkeys and dogs, Gandapur believes the government and media must “step up” to address animal rights in Pakistan.

“It is a long and hard struggle, but this is something we simply have to do, it is our duty as human beings, to defend the rights of every living thing on this planet. If we don’t, what’s the point of calling yourself a human being? “

Having led his non-profit organization for animals, SAYAA Animal Welfare, which works in partnership with Todd Shea’s CDRS Benji Project for Animal Welfare & Rescue, Gandapur says he sees a shift in people’s mindsets towards strays in Pakistan.

“From being ridiculed for years to now strangers texting me online saying how much they appreciate my work, wondering how they can help, I’m pretty confident. Hats off to animal rescuers in Pakistan who are doing such a difficult, albeit noble job, rescuing animals from some of the most horrifying and heartbreaking situations. “

As an animal lover and activist, how does Gandapur stay afloat when new cases of animal neglect and abuse continue to emerge in Pakistan, especially the relentless and barbaric cases of dog culling?

“It’s a struggle,” she replies, “But I believe in a higher power, I have placed my trust in God. As I say this, tears come to my eyes because He took away my most precious possession: my mother. He was an extraordinary human being. This restores my faith in humanity. While there are some people who may be worse than monsters, there are others who do selfless work for people, animals, and their country. They set a precedent so high that you have to think, if they can do it, why can’t I? And yes, sometimes you end up hating humans, but it gives you more motivation and a greater sense of purpose where you want to show the world that these animals are like children, that they too were created by God. “

The author is a journalist based in Islamabad. It can be reached at: sonjarehman@gmail.com

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