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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Start closer to home

There is often talk, especially by the liberal ultra left circles of urban Pakistan of the need to empower and  educate young women in rural and remote areas. The recent attack by the Taliban on Malala Yousufai has once again brought a magnified focus on the issue of women's right for education and empower, especially with regards to the risks they have to face in order to seek out knowledge. It is indeed a noble cause to fight for the education and empowerment of what is generally seen as the weaker of the two genders and such efforts are indeed commendable, however one interesting observation needs to be brought to attention, especially to the same pro women's rights groups who are making these efforts. That being that their efforts are focused too much on women in rural and far off communities, while women closer to home, i.e. in the urban centers that they hail from are also at a severe disadvantage. One doesn't need to wander out to the country side of Sindh and Punjab or the remote regions of KPK to find young women that are not just deprived off education, but also deprived off the idea of 'choice'.

The idea of choice is essentially knowledge or the presence of knowledge that many human beings have with respect to choices in life and the fact that they have a choice in life. A choice for a better life, a choice to have an education, a choice to live their life how they deem fit and so on. The absence of the idea of choice plays a big role as an obstacle in the empowerment and education of not just young girls, but our youth in general.

Coming back to the issue of female education and empowerment, since these rights activities are usually based in urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, it would be fair to the citizens of their fair cities that they begin their efforts with the women and the young girls that are closer to home, for many do not realize that disadvantaged young girls live closer to home, or they are just simply conveniently overlooked. These women's rights group might argue that socioeconomic disparity would hinder their efforts in reaching the masses and creating awareness of education and female empowerment among the lower socioeconomic groups. However at the same time, they do not act, when many young girls even from privileged back grounds, their own socioeconomic group are deprived off the opportunity for an education.

A lot of people fail to realize that even among Pakistan's urban upper middle class and affluent circles, there are countless young girls that fail to receive a proper education and this practice is found among many many communities in cities like Karachi and Lahore. There are many reasons given by such families or such communities as to why they do not educate their daughters. The most commonly given excuse is that pious girls do not engage in such worldly non sense, they stay at home and learn the skills necessary for managing a home. Building on that some argue, that what is the purpose of educating our daughters when their purpose is to get married, have children and take care of their homes and in laws. You even hear arguments such as girls should be married off young or that few families want an educated daughter in law who can think and speak for herself, a big lot of them want submissive obedient domestic daughter in laws for their sons. While some communities and families even among Karachi's elite circles treat their daughters as commodities in building relationships with other relatives or within their own communities, they give away their daughters hands in marriage to demanding prospects as if they are exchanging a commodity and in return they will benefit through an improved network. It is not uncommon even for educated mothers out of social and community pressures to give away their daughters hands in marriage in order to build ties with others or to consolidate existing ones. Many will give the excuse that this is how things work in our community so it is all justified, etc etc etc.

This completely removes the question of whether the family can or can not afford to educate their daughters due to resource constraint, but other factors are coming into play making them deny their daughters of not just fundamental rights, but also off the knowledge that they have certain rights which includes a right for an education, the right for making a choice and so forth. The Question that comes to one's mind is there a deeply held rigid belief that women are inferior, or is there a deep down terrifying earth shattering fear among  families especially men with regards to female empowerment through education. To those fighting for women's education and empowerment in distant areas, my sincere request to them is kindly also help those that are closer to home, those more accessible to them. Just take a trip down memory lane, and go back to your school days, go back to the time you were between the ages of 16 and 18, think of those girls who were married off straight after high school and think of those whose parents made them drop out of school even before they could finish to marry them off. Think of those 16 year old's who should be spending their teenage years studying for exams and enjoying hobbies similar to their friends instead they have mehndi on their hands and a new life in a new house. Think of those 18 year old's who some how manage to finish their high schooling, but the yeas that they should be spending seeking out knowledge, wisdom and developing skills are spent learning and managing domestic responsibilities sometimes in the back drop of over bearing in laws. Many of them do not even know deep down that they have a right to live like other girls, girls they went to school with, girls they made life long friends with and so on. Let's not forget these young girls also, their education, their empowerment, struggle for their rights also deserve our attention. Just spare a quick thought for them, it is so much simpler to reach out to them,


  1. PK needs more help from philanthropic foreigners who are willing to give back to the motherland. My mom has a few friends who are sponsoring schools, specifically for girls living in remote areas of PK. Nice post, Deen.

  2. This blog was to bring attention to the thousands of girls in Urban areas who never get to have a proper education because of community,cultural or chauvanistic regions, u rarely hear of efforts to help girls here