Nida Tahseen, Sobia Ahmed
It does not take an ordinary woman to rise above patriarchal dorms and smell independence in Pakistan. It takes an extraordinary nerve and keenness to prove the strength of character in a gender sensitive country. Since independence in 1947, women of Pakistan have contributed towards the cause and have been a driving force in running meager economy. They have proved themselves to be the best houses wives, politicians, bureaucrats, soldiers, engineers, models, entrepreneurs, speakers, chefs, accountants, economists, human rights activists, designers, journalists etc. With millions of skin piercing eyes from across the globe, Pakistani women have been challenging the atrocities of a male-dominant continent with active participation in almost all sectors of the work force.
Statistically, Pakistan’s sex ratio is somewhat 1.05 men per 1 female in urban areas, however in rural areas the sex ratio is still lower, which could be attributed to a large male out-migration from rural to urban areas. But, thanks to many feminist movements the country has come a long way in recognizing the role of female participation in development. Resultantly, the governments are more sincere in making a significant change to raise their standard of living. These progresses have also attracted a lot of criticism from conservative sectors to a dangerous extent. Hundreds of female schools were bombed to discourage women from getting education. They were threatened to withdraw from their jobs. Realizing the severity of the situation, especially against the Pakistani women doing exceedingly well at international levels, many international organizations offered their support to increase opportunities for women.
However, a country where women are largely considered to be playing the role of a submissive, there are women who have broken the prevailing stereotypes and not only proved their mark internationally but also changed the perceived roles allotted to them. Luckily, gone are the days when their work was not regarded as productive, organized and documented. Now every nook and corner of Pakistan is filled with the tantalizing aroma of the success stories of these passionate women who have time and again in different roles proved the importance of fair sex in a country’s development. Moreover, Pakistani women have introduced many firsts for Muslim women around the world.
In 1988, Pakistan proudly elected Shaheed Benazir Bhutto as not only the first prime minister of Pakistan but also of the Muslim world. She served two non-consecutive terms. History remembers her iron will against the worst attempts of character assassination but she never gave up paving ways for the millions of Pakistani women into politics. She was an epitome of bravery and hard work.
Statistics say that previous government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) turned out to be the golden era for female politicians, in which they enjoyed the highest positions at the legislature and decision making. Coming into power PPP appointed National Assembly of Pakistan’s first female speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza which was first time in the history of South Asia. During the tenor Pakistan also saw its first female foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, first secretary of defence, Nargis Sethi, deputy speaker of a province Shehla Raza and numerous female ministers, ambassadors, secretaries including Farahnaz Ispahani, media advisor to former president of Pakistan and co-chairman PPP, Sherry Rehman, former ambassador of Pakistan to US, Fauzia Wahab, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Farzana Raja, Shazia Marri, Sharmila Faruqi and others held prestigious positions within the administration. Hence, former president Asif Ali Zardari led government was responsible for landmark development in women rights' legislation and empowerment in Pakistan and commended by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and on international level.
Other than political horizons, Bilquis Bano Edhi, the driving force behind Edhi Foundation is an active philanthropist holds the honour of being awarded the prestigious ‘Hilal-e-Imtiaz’ and in 2011, was awarded with ‘1st Wonder Women of the Year Awards’. Together with her husband their charity has saved over 16,000 unwanted babies and recognizing her invaluable services she has been nicknamed, ‘Mother of Pakistan’.
Haseena Moin, a notable Pakistani dramatist, playwright and writer for radio and television earned international repute. With her incomparable command of Urdu, she harvests the subtlety, flexibility and expressiveness of this colorful language to the full, dazzling her listeners. Sultana Siddiqui, President of Hum Tv is the first woman in South Asia heading a TV channel is a leading veteran producer director running her own production house is the recipient of several awards including PTV silver jubilee awards for best producer of 25 years and PTV award for best private producer.
Nasreen Jalil was an instructor of flying at Hong Kong Aero Club. On January 2006 she became “Naib Nazim” of Karachi, during the swearing in ceremony Jalil pledged that underdeveloped areas of the city would be developed and also that women's rights would be safeguarded.
Dr. Mehmooda Kazmi is a qualified bacteriologist who joined Gastro biological Research Center in 1981 and became Bio-Defense Scientist. She was awarded with Pride of Performance in 2010 and is the first women scientist to earn this respect.
Dr. Asma Munir is an exceptionally qualified medical graduate with specialization in reproductive health. She has delivered more than 300 lectures on health awareness in 17 countries and has represented Pakistan in more than 260 national and international conferences on reproductive health. Noor Jahan, the most influential singers of her time in South Asia was given the honorific title of Malika-e-Tarannum as her career spanned over seven decades. She sang many poems and national songs for Pakistan.
Captain Ayesha Rabia Naveed was a committed lady for flying profession and made her solo flight at Lahore flying club in the age of 17 years. Captain Ayesha Rabia became the first lady captain of a commercial airline of Pakistan.
Malala Yousaf Zai has become the international face of female education. In a tender age, she defied Taliban and demanded girls’ right to receive education. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but she survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014.
Arfa Karim, the daughter of Pakistan, made a world record by becoming a youngest Microsoft certified professional just at the age of nine years. After her great achievement the chairman of Microsoft Bill Gates invited her to the United States at the headquarters of Microsoft. At this young age she was the vice president of S.Somasegar a software development house. Govt. of Pakistan has given her Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal Award for his achievements in Science & Technology.
These and millions other women of substances have contributed towards the development of country after independence and have changed the way world thinks about Pakistani women. Only recently, internationally community has opened doors for Pakistani women and they are invited to get education, trainings and practice living to share their experiences and ventures with the world. The world sees them as inspiration and look up to them as role models. The world has bowed before our women and we have also made much legislation to improve their standard of living but it is the implementation that we are falling behind. However, it is crystal clear that provided proper facilities our women can do wonders in bringing pride to Pakistan. n
Nida Tahseen, Sobia Ahmed