Nelson Mandela says and I quote, “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression”.

Freedom can never be bestowed, it must always be achieved, by all means, under all circumstances. The debate on gender equality stands as relevant today as it was decades ago, in every nook and corner of the world. Be it the civilised, developed world or the third world developing economies, women tend to strive hard to be fairly acknowledged and compensated in their personal and professional lives alike.

The developing world, though, poses mightier challenges to the upright, strongly opinionated and intellectually strong women, who, “unknowingly” and “unintentionally” end up intimidating the man’s world, where kings of fragile ego tend to lend more leverage to the ‘submissive’ women holding no “say” in the matters that matter.

However, despite being a developing economy, in Pakistan, while we see strong, independent women bearing the brunt of being exceptionally successful in their progressive career paths, exactly like in other parts of the world, we do observe an increasingly vast majority of men being cognisant of the importance of gender equality, lately.

It is pertinent to mention that the real mantra of weighing the importance of both genders and addressing the much talked about “harassment” issue needs to be understood carefully, as it has outweighed the old, obsolete, conventional mantra hands down.

The modern-day gender equation validates women’s exemplary contribution in uplifting economies. Pakistan, in particular, intends to increase its female workforce in police, judicial resource pool and other interesting fields, where women can play their effective role in dealing with women, who form 51 percent of the total population of the country.

Among a few humongous challenges at hand in this regard, we see Pakistan’s populace to be highly polarised when it comes to addressing the issue. Despite verbally agreeing on acknowledging women to be an equal entity, if not better, people tend to lock horns over their respective strategies being poles apart.

On one hand, there are a handful of women, who take it a bit too far, mixing women rights up with the rights for the LGBT community and other not-so-relevant quarters. On the other hand, we have a majority of the population finding the idea of “women empowerment” to be downright repulsive, just because they fail to make sense of the aforementioned group of women in minority.

What is missing here is the much needed “middle ground narrative” that must endorse the idea of “gender equality” and “women empowerment” without unnecessarily misusing the umbrella of ‘women rights’ to seek validation for the ideas that collide with our religious and societal norms.

Our society can only progress if women are given equal academic and professional opportunities, where boys are taught to view the opposite gender to be their equally capable counterpart, on their very first day at school.

An ideal civilised society will be such, where a woman standing alone on the roadside is not viewed as a “scrumptious opportunity” but “heavy responsibility”. A society where gender equality would not mean that women are superior to men or men to women.

A society where the harassment card would not be used to settle scores; crying wolf. A society where women are not hushed up the moment they claim their inheritance rights or their right to choose their life partner. A society that does not tell men that smoking a cigar will damage their lungs and a woman’s character.

A society where no woman gets divorced merely because of not giving birth to a “baby boy”. A society where it is as okay for others’ daughters to be getting married after professionally settling down as it is for one’s own daughters. A society that doesn’t poke their elbow in others’ plans of when to get married, who to tie the knot with or when to set out on the journey of parenthood.

A society that raises men so intelligently that they get the hang of striking the right balance between honouring their parents and siblings and valuing their wives and children, without getting the blame of being “too shrewd” or “too controlling” pinned on either of them, because, this is absolutely normal in highly cultured societies. A society that urges women to be empathetic enough to view their spouse’s parents as their own.

A society that views working women as honourably as the ones sitting at home. A society that was going to be the one where Hazrat Khadija (R.A) was an entrepreneur, strong enough to send out the marriage proposal to the Holy Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H), and no one dared uttering a disrespectful word to begin with. A society that doesn’t teach men that strength of a man lies in never crying but never making anyone cry.

Here’s to a more empowered and equally favourable Pakistani society, where “collaboration” outsmarts the unnecessary “competition” between the two genders. United we stand, divided we fall. Pakistan Zindabad!