ISLAMABAD - The vulnerability of women does not confine to male-dominated places only, as the women living in private hostels too are subjected to a host of problems including violence, unnecessary restrictions and unhygienic living conditions.
Working women and girls students who have come from far flung areas of KP, Kashmir and interior Sindh to the federal capital find themselves to have been landed in more difficulties than they suffered at homes.
Male owners and wardens of women hostels have set their own guidelines for the girls staying in the facilities with no check on the food and security provided to them. A visit to girls' hostels in twin cities revealed that the owners of hostels have been exploiting the situation of their clients and in most cases the women are asked for paying more monthly rent than the negotiated charges.
"I had hardly stayed for a week in a hostel in Rawalpindi when the owners asked me to pay more rent or vacate the room. I requested the warden to give me time for arranging the money but at midnight I saw my luggage thrown out of the room," Nadia, who hails from Abbottabad, narrated her plight.
For girls with disabilities, living in women hostels is not less than a challenge where they have to go upstairs without any availability of wheelchairs.
"My room is on second floor and it is quite painstaking exercise to climb the stairs as I feel acute pain due to my spinal injury," Jamila, who came to Islamabad for dress designing and having trouble in spinal cord, told The Nation.
Overcrowded hostels are a serious problem in the capital, particularly in the twin cities, where space for new construction is limited. As a result, women find themselves trying to live while jammed into compartments never intended to be used as rooms.
Islamabad is a city of immigrants. It has people of diverse areas of the country and even foreign nationals. Thousands of working men and women come to stay in hostel accommodations rather than to live in houses of relatives. Females from long distanced areas shift to hostels, but the quality and conditions of the hostels are inadequate and the percentage of working females in hostels has fell sharply.
Sadaf, a college student, said she had to search for accommodation in private girls' hostel for more than two weeks and when she was able to find room, she saw six other roommates in a single small room.
The food quality at various hostels is not up to the mark and usually girls get fainted due to unhygienic food being served at the hostels. "I was tested positive with typhoid after consuming the unhygienic food. If we complain they ask us to leave the hostel. Hira, another student remarked.
Women and young girls leave back their homes to stay and work but are treated with harsh behaviors of warden and the staff. Many times, hostel management misbehaves and mistreats the girls. A large number of women change accommodations by the maltreated of wardens.
"My warden used to ask me to wash her clothes", says Sanila, a hostelite from Attock.
"Once I got late from work and upon reaching hostel the gate was closed. I called warden and she asked me to come tomorrow morning. I had no other option but to spend night at a friend place," Tania.
Several females residing in a hostel on 6th road Rawalpindi once protested against the poor quality of food served by the hostel mess. The protest occurred when a cockroach was found in a regular day meal. All of the girls of the hostel came out of their rooms to lodge their protest. The girls told the warden that they had made several representations over the poor quality of food served but nothing had been done to improve it.
"Our complaints are only listened, noted and forgotten. We have to eat the unhealthy ill food as there is no other alternate," a hostelite said about the poor messing of hostels.
"The food inspection teams must come and see the dirty kitchens and rotten eatables. During summers the same meals are repeatedly served to girls, which made them suffer illness. I have been living in this hostel from the last seven years and the living standard has not improved.
The facilities remain the same only rates get high," Nadia said.
Sometime, women have to pay extra amount apart from regular dues to store their luggage in a tiny rooms. They have to buy locks to place their stuff for safety. And sometimes they have to pay extra amount to get first aid medical assistance in hostels after getting hurt.
“When I reached my hostel, I had slight temperature and it got high at late night. My roommates asked the warden to take me to hospital. She, at mid night, demanded two thousand rupees for the cab arrangement, such are the cruelties of hostel management towards females," Raima, another girl, said.