islamabad - In summer 2017, I embarked on a journey to the northern areas of Pakistan. One of the most memorable experiences for me, during the trip, was meeting Lolly, the caged Snow Leopard, in a conservatory in Naltar. It was not the sight of such a magnificent animal which struck me, but her story and situation. She had been captured by some locals at a primal age and since then had been kept captive.

Now even if she was set free, she didn’t have the skills (which others like her had naturally), to survive in a primal atmosphere.  I felt her situation to be synonymous to so many women in Pakistan.

Being deprived of education, they are robbed of the essential need that is to be able to secure themselves independently. Thus, being unskilled they have to despondently endure the treatment of their husbands or in-laws on whom the women are dependent for their basic necessities.

As I thought further I realized all the wasted potential, these women if trained could contribute to the economic situation which so desperately needs to be improved in our country. With their inclusion, all fields whether science or warfare could be improved. By handicapping them, we are ignorantly handicapping our own nation.

Thus, it made me ponder on how many women, captive of this narrow minded society, live unnaturally like Lolly, never realizing their true capabilities.

We see that the problem is not only limited to primitive areas, but throughout Pakistan. When we analyze Lolly’s situation we see that initially it was those villagers who were trying to protect her, who handicapped her. Similarly, in most cases it is parents who limit their daughters often not realizing the imperative need of a solid education on an individual’s personality.

Also, many women (like Lolly) live very comfortably with their husbands, in lavish houses with a number of servants catering to them. But it is the silent sense of self worth which often gnaws at their conscious, pushing them to do something on their own.

The unusual analogy sadly rings true of the culture that prevails throughout our country. We must learn that curbing ones education, their ability to live as an independent being, is denying them a basic right. But what must we, as a society, realize that this archaic practice, which still leeches onto our culture, goes far beyond affecting the mere individual, but is strongly detrimental to the country. No nation can truly ever flourish if the women are left behind, because inevitably nature has given them one of the most important roles, with most influence and consequence, which is that of shaping the future by raising the youth. To prepare them for this role, to groom civilized, aware and refined individuals, they are not required to know how to clean or cook, but they must themselves have exposure and be well informed of the world (not just their homes). To infuse confidence into their children it is imperative that they must have confidence in themselves, which can only happen if they are able to function as an independent being.

Thus, if we if we ever want a triumphant Pakistan, free of corruption, dishonesty and manipulation, then in the words of our beloved Quaid the women must walk ‘side by side with men’.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.