Women's Day has come and gone, and women in Pakistan and all over the world are, probably, no better off. This, sadly, is the un-chocolate-boxy reality. The Day has been important in that it has helped people come together on various platforms to discuss and propagate different ideas on how the quality of life for women in Pakistan can be improved. Before I go any further, I must be honest and state that I find myself in a uniquely privileged position in the organisation I work in, I have a wonderfully supportive family and an environment where I can work safely and enjoy the company of wonderful colleagues. I make no claim of knowing exactly what the average Pakistani woman goes through, the challenges she faces and how difficult her life, at times, is. Pakistanis raise their daughters with a great deal of laad, pyaar.
Their protection is an onus that their families take upon themselves, more so, in the absence of a reliable law and order system. Maybe, the silver lining of the financial crisis is that it is no longer affordable for the women of Pakistan, 50 percent of its population, to not contribute to the household wages and the economy. That is one of the reasons more women are and will elect to work: It’s simple accounting; you need to earn more to be able to keep up with the demands of the expense account. However, along with the society not being used to women in the workforce, they are equally unused to being a part of, on average, a mostly male environment.
There is some sort of expectation that one day when things are better, more women will start businesses or let their daughters get jobs. But this is not going to happen! There is not one perfect moment when the stars will align. There will not be a day when the problems that plague us today, will vanish. As far as work is concerned, in waiting for some utopic time, we're being far too soft on the girls. They can take it, send them out, and let them tough it out, That is how things will get better! There's no easy way!
If a woman gets teased on a bus and decides to stand her ground, maybe even dole out some public embarrassment to the offender - that is how social behaviour will change. That woman will have to stand up and create such a fuss that she cannot be ignored anymore. Which brings me to the point I would like to make, that…….yes, there are problems for women, but the worrying aspect is that women don't seem to be able to have the stamina to wade into them and take them on. Until you say that it is not acceptable, the way you are treated as a status quo, will never change. There are plenty of good things that should happen, but they are unlikely to unless people who want them, make them happen.
Women will have to be tough and ready to be judged on merit. They will have to justify their opinions, they must have the knowledge to back up these opinions and win the argument, based on their reason and not the shrillness of their voice.
In the guise of conveniences for women, we also need to stop legitimising bad behaviour in the long run. The pink buses in Punjab are an example of good intentions, perhaps, causing harm rather than help. Where, on the one hand, you might argue that let's do whatever we can to get these women to work, there's also the case to be made that by segregating women into different buses; you've given the indirect message that any woman travelling on a regular bus will be teased and there's nothing you can do about it!
Instead of creating a parallel system, the women will have to fight for a place in this one, they will have to suffer and they will have to take what it is that is owed to them because no one is going to hand it over. We have a lot of laws in this country and a few new ones, specifically for the protection of women, but laws in Pakistan while reasonably alright on paper, have absolutely no enforcement. We have these tools, but we don't know how to wield them.
This is not to say that there are no women in Pakistan already serving as role models in every field, who have blazed a trail for years to make more possible for the women of today. But, the journey is by no means complete. We have a long way to go and many future generations to blaze further trails for. So, the message is, it's up to you. Sisters, we'll have to do it for ourselves!