OF Social Change
My country is an ideological theocracy –The Islamic republic of Pakistan.
Since its inception in 1947, a secular progressive state has been stunted by an artificial super imposition of a constitution “supposedly” based on the teachings of Islam.
As in any other patriarchy, women suffer discrimination and exploitation under the sacred shroud of the holy laws of God. The situation is exacerbated with rampant ignorance and poverty. The current political situation and rivalry with India has resulted an insane amount of the national budget going towards Defence with the Health and education sector suffering badly
Pakistan is a country with one of the highest gender gaps.
The literacy rate for Women in Pakistan is approximately 45%. The overall literacy rate is nearly 65%.This includes people who can just sign their name. Hence, the percentages are inaccurate in estimating a correct level of societal awareness and education.
The media has boomed in the last seven years, but the gender representation further promotes women in stereotypical subservient roles.
Having said that, there is a slight improvement in the urban areas. As women are more educated, they are able to be financially self reliant and more independent. Therefore, they don’t endure abuse silently and are more confident of their survival as a single woman.
Yet, as in any collectivist society marriage is heavily emphasized and a woman feels socially unprotected and outcasted without a man being her “guardian.”; even if the man in question is anything but that.
The solutions lie in raising a voice against injustice and violence, civil society activism, educated awareness for both the men and the women.
As women become more aware of their rights and actively refuse the maltreatment meted to them in the name of religion and tradition, a slow but steady movement of change will start.
Recently the sexual harassment at the workplace penalty bill was passed in the assembly. It was a result of strong voices in the government from women who have been fighting for their rights for decades. There are still issues in its implementation but it’s an important step in the right direction.
Activists like Sheema Kirmani and Madiha Gauhar have been highlighting women’s rights issues and offering solutions through street theater. Their work provides inspiration and hope to many.
The Civil society has stepped up and many NGOs have adopted girls’ government schools to offer better quality education.
The internet has revolutionized knowledge and information exchange. Communities like pulse wire serve as pivotal resource for knowledge development, capacity building and global networking. I hope that the silent majority of my country benefits from the strength, expertise and support that I can gather from the sisterhood and successfully disseminate in my society.