By Hassan Abbas
From Fatima Jinnah to Rana Liaquat Ali and down to the likes of Bilquis Edhi, Fatima Surayya Bajia, Bano Qudsia, Umaira Ahmad and very recently to Naseem Hameed, Arfa Karim Randhawa, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan has uncountable feminine success stories to show off. Regardless of the national bedlam that revolves around almost each one of these amazons, the women has brought to Pakistan, some good name, some international prodigies, some softer and not so hostile image and above all has contributed towards a better societal existence of the country. Be it politics, education, social activism, journalism, sports or tourism, our women have proven their mettle time and again defeating the internationally established chauvinist image of the country. However, the fact that constantly pinches me at all times is that despite all the success stories and feminist activities that have been going on around since inception of Pakistan, there is no denying in the fact that the girls’ education progress has remained marginalized in the political and general discourse of Pakistan and has been the chief contributing factor towards Pakistan’s slow progress in all spheres of life.
In all of world’s developed states, the key area that leads to eventual success of society is education and more specifically education for women. After all, educated women are agents of change and Pakistan is in dire need of a social change that empowers its women. Owing to uneven socio-economic development and a contrasting existence of rural/urban divide and the many social formations from tribal to feudal to capitalist, the status of women in Pakistan, at an average is one of gender subordination. In Pakistan the story of a woman’s deprivations start even before her birth, because the girl child is not a particularly ‘wanted’ child. Right from the birth, her male counterparts have complete control of her life, her father deciding about education or no education, marriage, then her husband deciding about an annual production of a “Heir” to the family and whether to work or not, which in most cases is the negative and then in her old age, it’s the son with controlling power. And those having no male counterparts are treated all the more partially.
As if this is not enough, the whole society acts as an oppressor, browbeating her in to obedience. Thus, the word ‘woman’ in Pakistan is synonymous with ‘endurance’. She is simply forced to accept certain bare facts of life once she grows up to be a woman. Be it on streets, or for that matter in restaurants, a woman is first and foremost required to be alert. It is best to try and not notice, women are told. We belong to a society where a working woman is looked down as a rebel; we belong to a social setting where the sole purpose of a woman’s existence is to fulfill a man’s manly instinct, to produce off springs and cater to the house chores. What our racist fail to realize is that these women carve the future generations and a better exposure to life and society and a quality education will only contribute towards an improved social order.
The emphasis here is not on women giving up homely responsibilities and stepping into the professional world, it’s about adapting to the dynamics of the globalizing world and whilst playing an effective role as a house keeper, women in Pakistan also need a better chance at educating themselves and possibly contributing a little towards economic and social development. This will only be possible with the provision of improved educational facilities, eventually increased vocational and professional opportunities for women. Globally, advanced societies have empowered women; not just a few success stories or limited social settings of enhanced opportunities for women, but a complete infrastructure accommodating specialized educational, vocational, professional and possibly psychological and parental training to improve the forth coming generations and thereby contribute to the generation long processes of social development.