How Yaseem Hassan Gets It Done
This episode of the cut on Tuesdays brought to you by Saks Fifth Avenue and their Fifth Avenue club at Saks Fifth Avenue club, you can be styled in a private dressing room. Suite stocked with personalized items picked by their style advisors. Just for you. No matter what your budget is. We recently sent our senior producer can be regular to Saks Fifth Avenue club in hopes that it would help her shake off her winter fashion rut, so I always wear the same four sweaters that are just either black cream grey or Brown. Stay tuned to see if Kimmy can cast off those sweaters for something new. And in the meantime, make a Fifth Avenue club appointment for yourself at Saks dot com. Again, that's Saks dot com. Welcome to the cut on Tuesdays on Thursday. I'm Stella bug be editor in chief of the cut. Tumble out bed in Istanbul to the Kigen, massive ambition and yawn and stretch and try to come by. This is how I get it done the cuts series about him bishops women and the way they live how they deal with their inboxes people's feelings the grocery shopping their morning routines. Part advice column part love letter heart voyeurs. This week. I spoke with mean Hassan the global executive director for equality now. An international nonprofit that works to change laws in countries that legitimize sexual inequality and create laws that promote equality, or none exist. They've successfully pushed governments to protect women from sexual exploitation harmful cultural practices, like genital mutilation and sexual violence prior to heading equality. Now Yasmine was a corporate lawyer and advise the United Nations all being a single mom. I started our conversation by asking me about the first time. She realized women were not seen as equal to men. I was born here in Boston. But I grew up in bogus on my parents are both from box on my dad was in law school when I was born. And from the time, I was a little girl the different treatment of men and women really rankled me just in the family, even how boys were treated differently from girls goes when given opportunities is there example that you remember like maybe in your, Emily all. All the time. I mean, well, I was a when I was two and a half. My mother was pregnant with the second baby. Right. And I used to do my grandmother, and my grandmother would be like this one better be a boy I said, but why why I mean that was the question I asked and everybody just assumed they have the answer. But there was a big preference for boys and it always bothered me. And then when I was ten years old. We had the first military dictator came in and on his Llamas is all laws, and that's really the first time. I saw as a young girl all the women take to the streets because they were suddenly given half the legal status of men, and I was like, well, how is this possible? How is it that suddenly you wake up a person and the end of the day, you're half a person? And I was like I from that time I really wanted to work on women goals, and I ended up coming here to the United States for college, which was a struggle because my grandmother. My father's mother told my father that if you send her abroad, they'll. Be no man will marry her. How are we going to get a man to take her? Right. So the compromise was go to a women's college. And were the women in your family educated and worked, and yes, they will get it. So that's one thing with my, you know, my mother's a lawyer. My father sisters all got educate, they'd be as of them amaze and all that nobody worked and this is one of the things you see across the Middle East region. Right, but men have outranked men at every level of education from primary to post graduate. But it has not led to when people are saying education is the big driver of change. It is really just one drop in the ocean that you need to make work, and because none of that has translated into political power or economic power or even freedom from your family. So there's a lot more work to be done. And you have a background as a lawyer or. Yes, yes. I was trained actually as a corporate lawyer here I worked. At a corporate law firm for the first eight years of my professional life. So what made you take the leap from corporate law to advocacy law. I realized that I've spent eight years of my life. I've been it's not that. I I'd I didn't enjoy it. It was fine. But this is not what I wanted to do. And I had to do a big thing of like if I go down this part. I'm committing myself to something that doesn't give me joy. And that's when I had to think about what is it that gives me joy. Then suddenly, I they were doing talks of partnership now like I this is not what I was put on earth to do really. And at that same time, the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, and I got a call from the UN because I had worked on a Slavic low and women's rights, and I had written a lot about it. And they said we heard you're an expert and would you come and work on the reconstruction of laws in Afghanistan. So I'd never thought of that. I never thought of going and working at the UN at all. But I was like why not? What beauty while? So what something that you advised them to make happen? When you you know, what? And I don't think we did that well enough because as you can see from from that time to now if ghanistan is not a success to put it mildly. And I think one of the things we got wrong is everybody all the international rushed into Coniston thinking and people divided it up. So the talian were doing law reform, the US was doing military, the British was doing police and all that. But the local people were not that involved, right and for women's rights, you know, women had been decimated and there had been no education. So people aren't even literate, but they were doing women's rights from UN agencies and not talking to the women on the ground who were the beneficiaries, and I don't think that ever works. You have to talk to the women who are going to be -ffected because they are the drivers of change if they're the beneficiaries of change they have to also be the drivers of change that makes us sustainable. So a lot of what you do is focused on. On changing laws, which is maybe a more difficult or tedious aspect of advocacy. What inspires you to keep going with that? I think it's really important. I what inspires me law change legal change is long and it's hard. But the law really is what you're government thinks of you. Right. Whatever is said society can be any which way if you go and seek help from your government, and they say oh sorry. There's no compensation for you. There's no recourse, then you're kind of done for. So I think that equality in the law and having the right laws for what you need as women is an essential first step to gender equality. So that's why it's hard work. But we are committed to doing it on step at a time. How many hours a day are you working on this? Oh my God. You don't even need to know. Nobody needs to know. I was like it keeps me up at night. And we also have offices all over the world. So the Email keeps blinking today. We just got this horrific case about an it's US and Kenya we had an American citizen. And this is the first I heard about it like at six o'clock this morning when I woke up I had this Email. There's a guy from the US who went to Kenya opened an orphanage he and his wife and abused all the children that they had in that orphanage and the wife even took them and got them birth control from the hospital ten year old girls, and he's now living here in the US. So in that particular case, so you're going after that guy and trying to find him or are you trying to make it illegal to open an orphanage when? No. So remember just got that six o'clock in the morning. The first doing the first thing are doing is. We've looked at the US long arm statute. And there is a provision on sex tourism, right, which we helped get into the federal law, which means. Crimes that are committed overseas against children and against women can be prosecuted in the US. So the first thing we have to do is report to the State Department that this has happened. The next thing we have to do we have in office in Kenya. Look at what are the offenses in Kenya? And if things have already been filed that and then bring these two things together. So prosecution of this person would be the first thing compensation to the victims would be the second thing. Third thing would be ob- any deficiencies in the law that allows people to do this kind of things without thinking that nobody's gonna find them. Patch them, and then fix that more days than than you can imagine. I have these like last week was a case with this Argentinian goal who has been impregnated eleven year old by her grandmother's boyfriend in his sixties. And the government would not let her have an abortion, and they tried to actually give injections to grow the fetus. So it could be delivered. So it's like, yes. Those this is not the best morning news. I don't recommend. This. I mean, but these are very very hard things and they're happening every single day to gold around the world, and you know, some of us have to work on this. So after you get an onslaught of messages like this, then what do you do for the rest of the day? Well, we have to work on all these issues for the rest of the day for like, literally do what is your daylight? You get up then and you have a family of what is your life? Like, so I have two boys, and I'm a single mom. And so I do my messages between like five thirty and seven is when I actually physically get out of bed. So I do messages I wake up early look at all my emails answer that then between seven o'clock and eight o'clock is my children's times a week them up. Get breakfast ready. Listen to the news. I don't do US news anymore because it's all about Trump, and I couldn't care less. I mean, I've been heartbroken about it. But I listened to the BBC that's because that gives more global news. Get the kids out to school and then eight o'clock or eight fifteen onwards, we get a lot of cases. And we have our senior management team all over the world. And I mean, this is the great thing about the job. We have these issues, and we can work around from around the world on the same issue. So you mostly communicating over Email with your fifty people around the world, we you know, this Email is a mixed blessing. So when you're managing an organization that has people all over. I think that Email is a is great because you can communicate quickly. But at the same time, misunderstandings on Email are huge because you can't see the person's face. Sometimes people just write messages very quickly, and at least to hurt feelings on my rulers. If you haven't sorted something out in two emails, pick up the phone pickup Skype. Call the other person there's nothing like, you know, face to face if you can see them, that's even better. But just talking to somebody is much better. So I I do I'm not. A big fan of continuous Email because I think a lot gets lost. Do you ever? Find it hard to be the boss. Oh, always. I never wanted to be the boss in. I am not a very well. My children would disagree because they will say I'm a very bussey person, but minus my children most people don't think that I'm very bossy person. And I've never been very competitive or have never been the person who wants to put herself on top of anything. So it's very hard for me. When people say, this is my boss, and I was like, no, no, no, we work together. So yes, I do not. I'm not comfortable being called the big boss, and I don't even think of myself as that I think that has taken me a little bit of getting used to and understanding because I'm not very hierarchical, and I expect that I'm also very blunt person. So those things don't make for a great boss unless I have an understanding that this is how people are seeing me. So it's been a little bit of an adjustment. But I think that we've gotten there how do you figure out who to hire ferry much value? Diversity for us. Diversity is getting more men also in the organization because I think from hard to recruitment project, it it it it is hard to get men interested because again, if you rights organization, but focused on women, I think generally women are interested. So we we very much try to be very open to men and bring them in. We have currently I think one we have two or three men in Nairobi office who are great. And in New York, we have one and almost no we have half a man orgin, not half a, man. He's hop time in the London office. So yeah, I think there was a time when women's rights were a fight and women felt they had to it had to be just women only. I think that we are in this country at least in the United States. I think. We really now need to incorporate a lot more, man. It's a struggle. I don't think men are that interested on sometimes now with the metoo movement. A lot of men are scared. What is it like to actively have to recruit men into your organization? It's the same as most people have to actively recruit women or minorities. I don't think it's much different. I actively recruited a director finance and administration who was a man and he worked with us for the past five years and often I would have to call on him and make sure that his views were heard, you know, even though he was like finance, but you have to be mindful of these things we had a man who was a junior staff, and we were working with some celebrities and one of the celebrities made a comment on his appearance, right which was really hard for me. Because I was like I would never have stat there if a male celebrity had made a comment on the experience of the appearance of a female colleague was it a was it an appreciation or in appreciation. No. I know what you see. So I actually I I was like kind of taken aback in the meeting itself. And then I call this guy to my office. And I said I want to acknowledge that this happened, and I was uncomfortable. And I want to see if you weren't comfortable with that. And so he said he was not uncomfortable with that. But I was still uncomfortable. So I went back to the agency that had brought us the celebrity, and I said I want to just raise this that as a women's rights organization. We are not okay with this goes both ways. So that's where I let it rest. But I know that that was an uncomfortable moment working in women's rights. Well, I mean like, that's great. I loved it. I had I known if. I. Because the comment made was like I like that I can Di in your office. Let's say you're walking the walk. Yeah. Yeah. You have to do. It cannot be a double standard. I cannot stand. Coming up has recommends never breastfeeding and explains how the show modern family is changing the world. This episode of the cut on Tuesdays is brought to you by Saks Fifth Avenue and their Fifth Avenue club at Saks Fifth Avenue club, you'll get a private dressing room. Suite stocked with items picked by their style advisors. Just for you. No matter what your budget is. Hey kimmy. Hi, molly. So recently, we sent you to Saks Fifth Avenue club in order to break free. From your winter sweater rut. Yes, you did which was great timing because I have a few events coming up that I really cannot wear a sweater and jeans to one of which being our live show. Yeah. You need something. Good for that. Right. So I told Lindsey my style adviser about it. And I wanted something dressy and something fun and colorful, but also just comfortable since we're going to be on stage in maybe throwing t shirts into the crowd. And she picked out a ton of outfits for me. Okay. So couple things we pull that are just sort of basic most favorite. Jeez. Sweater with the. Oversized buttresses ab- really beautiful blouse he shirt, and you can do it with this like cool career away black tank under it or just like a bra. So, you know, those like nineties early two thousand fashion montages or someone tries on like a ton of looks before going to like a dance or a party or something. Yes, I am familiar with that phenomenon. So okay. I seriously felt like I was inside of one of those what do you want to try? I let's see I'm trying to pick of one day would absolutely would never pick. Probably this big floral outcry. I'm not sure what's going on in the middle. Which is why I'm the most intriguing and then there's a Ruffo down the front, and it's got a high collar, so usually like go for something entirely shapeless. But I think it will like hanging. Yeah. Interestingly so how did it look? This is incredible. So yeah, it looks really good in the back looks. So very flattering yet. This is not something that I would have picked. But it's really like I ready to ten. Whether you're stuck in a fashion rut or you have an important event coming up or both Saks Fifth Avenue club has got your back. Make a Fifth Avenue club appointment for yourself at Saks dot com. Again, that's Saks dot com. Welcome back to the cut on Tuesdays on Thursdays. I'm talking with Yasmine Hussan the global executive director for equality now. An international nonprofit that pushes governments to pass laws that protect women and girls. She's also a single mom who watches a lot of TV I asked her about how all this fits together. He work all day. What happened in the evening? What do you do while? I I hang out with my kids, and I really tried to keep it. I have two boys and they're fourteen and eighteen and they have different interests. A lot of the older one is more of an activist. So he is interested in not gender equality, but he's all race act. You know, my kids are by racial their father. I'm from Pakistan their fathers from Connor, and I find myself in this interesting situation of raising two African American boys not being African married. I really American, but I am an American. And so that's quite interesting. So I. I spend a lot of time with them and a lot of energy on their pursuits, and what matters to them. And I travel a lot with them. And so we do a lot of fun things together. Hopefully, I hope they agreed. They're listening to this. I. But I might make them. Listen. No. So so I do spend time with kids. I try to spend time with friends and I-. Interestingly enough, I try to watch a lot of TV you know, what? Because all kinds a lot of stuff that because I do believe a while ago when we started it was all about changing laws. I think as activism has changed. I think media has changed so much, and I'll give you an example of this. When I was growing up. We had one TV station in bogus on right? It used to go from six o'clock in the evening till like ten thirty eleven o'clock, and it was state run, and we had one English show which used to be like chips or Starsky and a little house on the prairie. Sometimes Cosby show was there. You know, all these kind of shows love vote no to voters too much to the love. Never have sex in the city. I don't think. Yeah. These shows which were about half an hour to one hour a day really give you a different window into into life. Now, you go anywhere in the world. Everybody has satellite dishes, and they're getting five hundred channels, even like little villages everywhere. Right. A lot of people are listening to content from Hollywood. And also from Bollywood, those are the biggest producers, and they are influencing how people viewing relationship life and all that. And I was like if we are not in there. I think legal changes seriously important, but social changes legal change does play a part in social change. But media plays a huge, part and social change. And I know that things like modern family have a huge impact a while ago. I was in a four five years ago, I was in Iran to Pakistan, and I was in a debate competition and the issue that kids were debating was gay marriage. And I was like Pakistan is a country where out. Of marriage sex is illegal. So you're talking about, you know, gay marriage and kids who are arguing couldn't figure out stuff to say against on the on the con site. They couldn't figure it out. And then when I pulled them afterwards. I was very interested was they had all been watching will and grace and modern family, right? I think humor has a big role to play in. How you get people who are unsuspecting who are watching something for entertainment. They've used get changed in the world a little bit back to your life. Yes. So you mentioned that even though education goes up, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that changes will happen for women around the world and your own family and your own life. What did you observe about the women who were highly educated, but didn't work, you know, I think at the time that I was growing up the focus was on women are getting educated. So they can raise smarter children. That was the thing is you're getting a lot of times it's idea being sent to graduate school. So you meet the right guy. To marry. And so there was no pressure on women actually to do something and succeed at it. Other than having a family, and in a lot of countries, you need your husband's consent to have a job in Pakistan. What was also interesting is that the laws didn't really allow women to have agency. And my first job. I remember I worked in Pakistan television. Now is like eighteen I was and the sexual harassment was rampant. Okay. As a woman and a young woman at work, and you could not say anything about it. Not only could you not say anything in the in the office. I couldn't tell my parents about it. Because the first thing would have happened. I would have been yanked from work and said see we told you it wasn't safe. You know, when we talk about sexual harassment and countries of the Middle East. You have to talk to people who are saying our families are going to restrain us from going to work in the first place. So it's like what do you do? I so I think there's a whole gamut officials starting from do women have equality in the family. We are the laws supportive of women working number two is the culture supportive of working women, which I don't think in this country. It is even now I mean, we don't even have maternity leave other than a handful of states and flexible work is kind of you know, it's an aspiration. I was told after my first baby. And I wanted to work part time people will like don't do that. Because you're just going to get paid for part time. And you're going to be working all the time anyways, which was true, right? Did you take their advice? I still took the I used to work Monday Wednesday Thursday, and I used to take Fridays off and that day I wanted to when I had the baby do Gymboree and all that kind of stuff, and I would leave the baby in Gymboree and be outside on conference calls. You know? So yeah, I remember after my first pregnancy thinking I had to go back to work because there was so much pressure. Not to go back to work. There was so much pressure to stay at home. It'd be a stay at home mom, and and and there were economic incentives not to go back to work in the short term where it was more expensive. Let's say to pay for nanny or the the rationale would be your whole salary will go toward paying for the nanny. And then I remember feeling like I had to do that math because over the of the short term perhaps. But the long-term. Yeah. No contributions to your 4._0._1._K, you know, no, maintain your career and. Yeah. And that. But but that even in my educated world. Yeah. There was not just sort of social pressure to stay home. There was we see this, right? Kind of disincentive ization to go right back to work. You see that yet with young women right now, the it's like the baby happens, and Ben all these considerations. Come into play. An unfortunately, a lot of people are shortsighted. And the other thing is and this was the enjoy the child. I didn't enjoy it. Like, I didn't enjoy I when I took eight months because I had a very bad childbirth. And I couldn't wait to go back to work because this is one thing I have always been good at what I did. And this is when I realized that I'm actually not so good at this. And this is the giant writing. So for me it was easy to go back. My first child I took eight months off at my second one. I think he wasn't even two months when I was back to ghanistan I left him in New York. And yeah, which was great. I, you know, arm him. Second time around everything is easier. Right as mothers, I think we get very anxious about I children because you don't know what you're doing. And everybody gives you all sorts of advice from breastfeeding to what have you which never worked for me, by the way, breastfeeding? I really don't recommend it to anybody. But this is a controversial thing to say. But I was like there has to be diversity of Finian's and everything. So the second child is much easier. And I think I mean that is one of the advice like, I I think child rearing was my big life lesson and to do that in along with work because it didn't come that easily. What's the biggest challenge about being a single mom? While it's you get to make a lot of decisions on your own which would be nice to have somebody to talk things through. I think a lot of time when children are adolescence they're going through a lot of stuff, and as adults and boys that might not be my experience, and I just have to look at my judgement. And it's not that you have always somebody else to bounce that off. So I think that's hard. But you know, my kids are great. And I we figure it out. We I think we give each other leeway, they go through things. I mean, I was never raised as a minority anywhere. I mean, I am now a minority in the US. But when I grew up, I grew up as the majority population, I'm paying job, and we are the dominant ethnic group in Pakistan. And I think there is a confidence that comes with that. And there's a lot of things that you take for granted. So now, I'm raising sons who are minority their mixed race, plus their minority and. And it is it is a very different experience. And a lot of stuff that I took for granted growing up. I have to make sure I boost up for them and confidence being one of the main things how often do you guys talk about the stuff? We don't I think they talk a lot among their friends. I noticed with my older son who suddenly around middle school started hanging out mainly with black kids. And I was like who that's interesting like, you know, we we never saw race as an issue or anything. But I think when your identity is being formed those are the children he he gravitated towards and then he became very political from that age on activism on race and on religion. He told me he was the only Muslim in his school. Which was also very uncomfortable for him. So seeing know growing up through there is is is a very different experience for me to learning experience. Thank you for this. I. Feel like I learned so much sitting here talking to you. I know it was wonderful to be here. And thank you for inviting me, always happy to come. That's it for this week show. We'll see you next Tuesday. This episode was produced by Chris Mary and was edited by Lin Levy mixing by Sam there are theme song is nine to five by the one and only valley parking. On is a production of gimmick media. And. Thanks to our sponsor Saks Fifth Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue club, you could be styled at a private dressing room. Suite stocked with personalized items picked by their style advisors. Just for you. No matter what your budget is make a Fifth Avenue club appointment for yourself at Saks dot com. Again, that's Saks dot com.