| By Fatima Zahra |
“If you wish to know how civilized a culture, look at how they treat its women.”—Bacha Khan
With this quote in mind recall Pakistan’s ranking on Global Gender Gap Index, in the year 2020; that is 151 out 153 countries on a global scale. These figures alone are not enough to prove the vulnerability of women living in Pakistan, two months back, a renowned TV writer Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar, on a live TV show, infuriated Marvi Sirmid with the filthiest words possible for interjecting with the infamous slogan “My body, my Choice.” The sad part is, majority hailed him as a hero!
The talk on women emancipation is confronted with the patriarchal paradigm of women being subordinates to the self-presumed superior gender. A country, where birth of a female is still looked down upon, or where a baby girl is thrown away in the Edhi’s cuddle, questions the need of “Aurat March.” Words of my paternal aunt still echo my ears and will continue to haunt me for the years to come, where she ascribed celebrating the birth of a baby girl with slut shaming. And no, she is not an illiterate woman; she holds a master’s degree in Political Science from one of the top universities of Pakistan and has served for more than three decades in a government job.
In such a downright conservative society, the discussions on Women Empowerment should not just resonate around western agendas of giving women financial empowerment through small business start-ups, which does little in bridging the gender gap down the road. Women Empowerment has to come through the Leninist model of Vertical Political Mobilization which calls for a change through grass-roots level and is also at times referred as progressive populism. For any country to bring its social transformation, the change has to come through sexual equality. People have to realize that women alone do not go on benefiting from Feminism, and that patriarchy has its roots back in the agrarian era.
Patriarchy can serve great hindrance in value judgments and bridging the chasm between right and wrong. A research validated from World Health Organization proposed that depression in men, in a patriarchal society, is slightly higher than those in egalitarian societies. Men in our society are instantly labeled as weak for crying and/or fear people trampling over their masculinity in case they reach out for help, exposing them to more suicidal thoughts.Another disadvantage is that, reproduction control is not clearly understood and more often than not politicized by most clergymen, which results in having more financial burden of children and other family members on men. This complicating factor of financial pressure can be resolved through women empowerment and helping women stand shoulder to shoulder in a life full of uncertainties.
Now that we know feminism is not gynocentric, and has mutual benefits, we can go on ways discussing the enormous possibilities through which we empower women. This has to be done through increasing the share of women in not just the primary and secondary education, but also through encouraging them to seek higher education. It has to be done through eroding the social pressures in voicing themselves in public spaces and listening to what fears them when they alone walk down the lane. It has to be done by looking at your wives through the lens of being a human and not just a sexual object for an hour or so or a child-bearer for that matter. Women’s participation in the workforce can take up the GDP by 30 percent and all the factors combined tell us that if we have the iota of courage to understand and support involvement of women taking up the charge in Pakistan, we can put a lot on the right track!