“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.” ― Muhammad Ali Jinnah

The predominant role of women in society has ensured the stability, progress, and long-term development of nations throughout history. All these years, women have been protagonists in the destinies of entire nations, cultures and political thinking, science and innovation and some of the most important social transformations. The protagonists have not been few; they have been thousands of leading and fighting women across the globe. These are the women who broke the barrier of silence and fought with several odds of society through their courage, determination and steadfast attitude. Undoubtedly, the road that leads towards the achievement of their goals was full of disappointment and perturbation.

The notion that supports the empowerment of women has always raised concerns, as perceived, it challenged the traditional patriarchal outlook of the society. However, the erroneously taken notion is, in fact, the expansion of freedom of choice and action to shape one’s life. It implies the control over resources and decisions. It gives women the liberty to select, reject and share ideas, actions, and issues of their preferences. The idea of empowerment demonstrates the enclosure of the voices of the weak and marginalized. It allows women access to the needed tools and materials for the expansion of their capacities. Most importantly, it ensures the right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the roof over their head.

The prejudices and stereotypes involved in critically evaluating and immensely misinterpreting the above notion are often seen debating as if it is a foreign agenda designed against them. The participation and rights of women are both elaborated and discussed centuries ago. To recall some vigilant and courageous women that served as the helping hand at times of war and peace alongside Prophet (PBUH) include Hazrat Nusaybah, Hind bint e Utbah, Hazrat Aisha ume Ummarah, Hazrat Khadija and many more. These are some earliest examples illustrating the roles of women in the spheres of life.

Women can influence the direction of social change to create a more just, social, political and economic order nationally and internationally. As a nation, Pakistan is still in the struggling phase of becoming a tolerant and flexible society for women. The   bias and conservativeness prevailing in the society is perceived as the insecurity of one’s self that restricts them from growing further. It gives the impression that our society is forgetting the character and standing of the virtuous beings. The verification lies in the involvement of men in mercilessly raping neonates, infants, and adolescents. These are the individuals who are far beyond the debates of right and wrong and hardly play a role in dragging the attention of the lustful minds. Unfortunately, alongside some other factors, Pakistan ranked 151 out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020.

Women are supposed to be the biggest victims of war and history is full of such examples. The traces of the war of independence fought in 1947 and later in 1971 elucidate the systematic campaign of genocide rape. Moving further, the incident of 23rd February 1991 that took place in Kashmir marks the indiscriminate and criminal mindset that prevails within the developing world. One recent happening include Kashmiri women that are the biggest victims of the inhumane siege after the revocation of Kashmir’s special status by India. It is not only in South Asia; one finds plenty of heart-breaking incidents from different parts of the world where young women are abducted and later trafficked for multiple purposes.

Defying all odds and regardless of the inhumane behaviour women have faced, there are still numerous examples of brave women who boost the morale of hundreds. From Fatima Jinnah to Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan to Benazir Bhutto to Major-General Shahida Malik and many more, Pakistani women continue to astound the world with their capabilities. The women who are considered vulnerable in several aspects are now not only capable of securing themselves but are also working in various security roles such as guards, private detectives, investigators and police officers in different parts of the world. Most recently, the growing demand for women is in the field of cybersecurity and one notable initiative taken by ISACA is named after Women Leads Tech. The women involved have exerted influence on a variety of cybersecurity issues-from policy, awareness training and legislation to R&D and regulatory compliance.

In a nutshell, despite differences, women continue to explore, engage and empower themselves in different professions from doctors, lawyers, consultants, engineers, entrepreneurs, police officers to actively participating in politics and military affairs. As of now, women are becoming a growing force on the world stage and are moving beyond frontiers. Since there’s no GPS or roadmap to follow to get women in different fields to a place where they are on equal footing with men, but there are plenty of ways the industry can help them arrive at equality and parity. To assist them in their struggle, media must play an impartial role in flourishing and promoting a positive portrait and must refrain from the content that is intended at victimising women.

It is often said that women leaders of Pakistan are vocal, visible, active and upfront today. And in achieving peace and security, women are equally important as men. Subsequently, if the trend of zero tolerance and undermining women continues, reaching parity would take further 107 years which is an alarming situation in itself. The society must upgrade itself to a level where there remain no traces of brutality like those experienced in 1947, 1971, 1991, 2001, 2019 and present. It is a reminder for everyone to treat each one as humans and try not to be an obstacle in anyone’s path unnecessarily. Moreover, in every other field, there is a requirement for several impactful initiatives to encourage and emancipate women within Pakistan.

Mubeen Ashraf

The author holds an M.Phil degree in Defence and Strategic Studies. She can be reached Mubeen.