GUEST WRITER

This year’s Women’s International Day (WID) resolve, “Be bold for change”, depicts the struggle of women from right to vote to political, social and economic empowerment since the beginning of the twentieth century.

A significant change in women’s behaviour can be appreciated from their increased confidence and boldness at the work place, home, fields or within educational institutions.

Women today are competing in every sphere of life to prove that they are no less than men. Entering professions which were previously considered as domains for men alone, women are seen side by side with them. As pilots in the air force, they are flying away jets and F 17s. In the Armed forces, they are calling themselves as Sisters in Arms and serving at all levels.

The legal profession is also marked with their presence as lawyers, prosecutors and judges. Women scientists and engineers are also leading in the field of science. Furthermore, women in the world are conquering summits.

A Muslim woman recently climbed seven mountain peaks and set a new world record.

The fourth pillar of the state, the media, is also not without their presence, it is bursting with women anchors may it be television or radio channels. These media women have thousands of followers in their list of fans.

In terms of sports, the Pakistan National Women Cricket Team is putting men to shame with every victory.

We cannot ignore the contribution of women human rights activists and women parliamentarians who have played together a very significant role in the promulgation of laws which protect women from violence, biases, and deep rooted gender discriminatory cultural practices.

It does not mean that all is rosy for women in Pakistan or at the global level despite their advancement in social, economic and political domains. Violence against women is still deeply rooted in our male dominated culture. A majority of women are silently suffering from this malicious behaviour of the society.

This is resulting in an increase in domestic women workers who have fled from their respective villages in order to escape from violence and domestic abuse. They leave behind their loved ones and children just to get a secure and better living inside cities. Although, these women are illiterate and uninformed, their resilience does not allow them to live on as silent victims. I am sure the shelter homes would overflow with women, when and if, the government provides better living conditions and opportunities.

Today I am recalling the story of Uzma and Sonia, who last year worked at my home. Both wanted to earn a decent living and never to look back despite the fact that they greatly missed their children and cried often in memory of them. For them, this was the only possible way to live. They worked hard and saved money to establish independent homes so that in the long run they could achieve their dream of winning their children back.

Unfortunately, they were harassed day and night by their family elders because it was a stain on their ‘honour’ to have a runaway daughter-in-law or sister-in law. The men of the family specially wanted them back so that they could settle their egoistic scores by beating them brutally or perhaps even killing them.

Sometimes, to me, it all resembles a depressing stage of early 1800 century or before, where the barbaric colonizers would not let go of their slaves. The runaway slave regularly paid a visit to life-threatening and unbearable torture whilst serving as an example for others. Same is the case with these women who revolt against discriminatory violent cultural practices and challenge the status quo.

These brave women are the actual champions of women’s struggle, who without any worldly means courageously face the unfavourable odds of life. Despite the unfolding obstacles in their path, they never forgo their birth-right, the right of every woman -the right of humanity.

One thing is for sure that women don’t want to be victims of violence and insult any more.

If such persistence continues, women will achieve the original aim of women’s international day i.e. to achieve gender equality, reduce the gender pay-gap and to have equal representation in business and politics.

No matter what obstacle we face or wherever the path may lead, the foremost step for women will always be #BeBoldForChange.

The writer is a human rights activist and development practitioner.