Sheema Kermani: dancer, activist, inaugural bridge figure

Dance for women’s rights

“In Pakistani society, from the time a girl-child is born, it is a time of mourning, it is not a time of happiness, and she is brought up with that burden.  Because of that, the physical burden, you try to cover yourself up, you don’t put your shoulders back, you are not proud of your body, so you never have confidence in your body. That is why it’s so important for women what I do, the dance that I teach. I say: Stand up, breath, put your shoulders back. This makes women strong.” (Sheema Kermani, 2015 interview)


Dancer and activist, Sheema Kermani, has danced for women’s rights for 35+ years. She founded Tehrik-e-Niswan (The Women’s Movement) in 1979 and she is our inaugural bridge figure. She has told us that international support helps her create change locally. Learn more about Sheema’s amazing work below. You can support Sheema and women in Pakistan by sharing her message and following her on facebook.

“Dance is a means to achieve peace, humility and beauty” Sheema Kermany.


Although historically women were the ones preserving artistic traditions, according to Freemuse, now women in Pakistan who dance are ostracised, struggle to make a living as artists, and their profession is perceived as immoral.
In May 2016, local government officials in the village of Sheikhan, in the eastern province of Punjab, banned music and dancing at weddings. A district government official deemed the celebrations and musical evenings for weddings to be “not healthy” social activities.

With Bells on Her Feet – Documentary – Trailer from Taimur Rahim on Vimeo.

Once a month for three years, Sheema and her group went to a low-income area in Pakistan to perform. They performed always in the same space, always at the school. In those three years, they created a rapport with the community, the students and the teachers. Then, they moved to a different area. A year later they came back and found out that the female teachers transformed the place into a women’s center. Over those three years, the thinking of the girls and women changed so much that they felt empowered and with enough confidence to run the place for themselves, to channel themselves forward*.

“I’ve trained a lot of people now working in different places. We have to think about the change. The power is within us, women has such tremendous power and if we can grab that and we can get in touch with that power we can bring change.”

Tell us, what does dance mean to you?


*Listen to Sheema in a 2015 interview here.