Being a regular visitor to my home country, Pakistan, I am able to witness the daily lives of women and their experiences. As much as I would like to say that it is all positive, it is evident that Pakistan till this day is a patriarchal country which reinforces the inequalities between men and women. Pakistan most certainly has positive elements which is why I am a regular visitor; however, in regards to women’s treatment and their status, it is simply appalling. The restrictions and limitations that are enforced on women abolishes their rights to education, employment, freedom of speech and simply living the life they dream of. Although one can argue Pakistan has improved in addressing women’s rights, there are still rural areas existent that fail to consider women’s rights. My experiences while visiting Pakistan are core elements to my overall view of women’s rights. Not to be mistaken, sharing these experiences is not a way of criticising Pakistan overall as previously stated there are aspects of the country which I adore.
Living in the capital city, Islamabad, very rarely am I able to witness women’s experiences in rural areas. I had the opportunity to visit a village when I visited Pakistan in 2011. The outlook was completely different to the city, deprived of little things that we take for granted. Internet, Tv, computers and many other things. During my visit I came across a young girl, probably around 14 years old playing by herself outside. While talking to her I asked her what grade she is in. She looked confused and wasn’t sure what I was implying. I explained my question further, asking her which school she attends. She started laughing and responded ‘’Yahan kaun school jata hai’’ (who goes to school here?). She went onto saying her father did not allow her to attend school or educate herself as it seemed ‘pointless’ to him. A girls duty in his eyes was to become a loyal wife and look after her husband and the household. Be a carer. Not a career woman. She went onto further explain she has been engaged for over a year and will be married soon. At the age of 13, her life was signed away to a man without any input from her. No questions. No room for views. This was her ‘destiny’ as her father would probably say. A young girl denied the opportunity to educate herself, socialise with peers, learn skills and possibly qualify in a desired field is a clear example of the inequalities still in practice today.
In some areas the focus is still on marriage and women having a passive role. For a parent or a carer to dismiss the importance of a child receiving an education or labelling it as useless reinforces the patriarchy. Boys are allowed to educate themselves. Why is it important for them to receive an education but not girls? Because it is still believed that there is no place for a woman in the field of education or employment. The young girl brushed off any signs of hopelessness or unhappiness but it was still present in her eyes and the way she spoke about her arranged marriage. She must wonder how her life would be if she was allowed the opportunity to educate herself and do a degree. To be imprisoned in the house and have no access to the outside world, how isolated must a girl feel?
I do wonder sometimes about that girl. Is she happily married? Is she still living the imprisoned life and only answering to her husband? How has her life become now? For me to be able to live the life I want and to make my own choices and for her to have all her choices beforehand can really impact on perspective. It is a common statement to say you should always appreciate your life when comparing to others but it is such a vital statement that must be taken literally. How different would your life have been if things were different? If you were brought up in a different country where women’s rights simply did not exist or taken seriously? If you can’t be thankful for what you have, be thankful for what you have escaped.