Women’s empowerment or cultural overhaul

Mar 8th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan

Twinkle, twinkle little star how, I wonder what you are?

I remember reciting this nursery rhyme as a kid at school. Today, my astonishment lies with little and big ‘stars’ being stud in my country by fairly large number of mushroomed foreign funded NGOs. One of my bewilderment which makes me ponder repeatedly is most popular slogan of today i.e. women’s emancipation and empowerment. These NGOs have sprung up in our country since over a decade, driving an agenda to liberate our women. I ask, liberate from what or whom?

Pakistani women work shoulder to shoulder with the opposite gender in every walk of life, be it private or public sector, government offices, armed forces, judiciary, medical and nursing field, science and technology, media organisations, education and even as elected legislators of provincial and national assemblies, even the office of the Prime Minister at least twice. It wouldn’t be impertinent to wonder how come the United States of America, a country which is most advanced and highly developed, never had a female as head of the state.

If viewed in light of the above, there appears to be a fallacy that our women are not into decision making processes in the country and are oppressed and majority are still in the kitchen. And what is so unusual about women being in the kitchen? Same is the case in the west. Who do you suppose, takes care of the kitchen and domestic chores out in the western family? Here, at least due to labour being cheap most of the middle class upwards, women folks are blessed with domestic help, whether it is kitchen, laundry, house cleaning and even many with chauffeurs to drive them around. How many of those in the west can afford that luxury? The upbringing of children begins from home and none better than mother can do that in the best manner. The old adage truly states that “behind every successful man is a woman’’ is absolutely right from the childhood till becoming a spouse!

Thus the lingering question “Where is the empowerment and emancipation lacking?” which the foreign aid agency, are so generously funding to promote in Pakistan?

Wait, just a moment, on a second thought probably, they could be right, our women are oppressed! Let’s take a closer look and observe. Yes, they adhere to cultural norms, values and religious sentiments and belief. On top of that they are proudly and willingly wearing a Hijab (head scarf) or covering themselves from head to toe with a Burka to protect their modesty!

That definitely is a mark of ”oppression’ in  world’s eye. However, if they abandon the norms of culture and religion and dress immodestly and attended gatherings of dance and booze, they would surely become liberated, wouldn’t they?  I was just wondering why do the Nuns cover themselves from head to toe and abstain from ‘evil’?

Our women can be further be empowered and liberated if the parents would allow their young daughters to develop ‘relationships’ with boys and go hang out with them whenever they wish and wherever they desire. What’s wrong with having a boyfriend? What is the worst that could happen, apart from a rare possibility of being molested or raped or teenage pregnancies?

Wow! now that is called real liberation and empowerment. How silly of me not to have understood such simple difference between oppressed and liberated when such crystal clear examples were present right under my nose! Thanks to all funds arriving in Pakistan in the name of women empowerment and humanitarian grounds actually giving rise to an overhaul of our ‘ancient’ society’s culture, traditions and moral values. Finally, our women folks would be liberated, Yippee Yea!

Mushtaq Sethi

About the author

Mushtaq Sethi is a social activist and freelance analyst and writer.

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  1. Excellently written and truly said .Sethi !Nothing can be far from the truth depicted in the contents of the article!

    In my opinion,sexual assault/ domestic violence is probably being misconceived and misinterpreted with emancipation and empowerment.Which in reality are not synonymous ! As regards the former highly condemnable gender related crimes.They sadly and unfortunately take place in every community,society,Pakistan is not a standalone country.As a matter of truth the ones who are funding and promoting the awareness out here need to do something of the same at home as well.They exactly don’t smell to good themselves… // Violence Against Women in the United States: Statistics

    Despite the fact that advocacy groups like NOW have worked for two decades to halt the epidemic of gender-based violence and sexual assault, the numbers are still shocking. It is time to renew our national pledge, from the President and Congress on down to City Councils all across the nation to END violence against women and men, girls and boys. This effort must also be carried on in workplaces, schools, churches, locker rooms, the military, and in courtrooms, law enforcement, entertainment and the media. NOW pledges to continue our work to end this violence and we hope you will join us in our work.

    In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner.1 That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.2
    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (Intimate Partner Violence or Battering)

    Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.3 According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.4 Less than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury.5

    According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day.6 Other estimates, such as those generated by the FBI, are much lower because they rely on data from law enforcement agencies. A significant number of crimes are never even reported for reasons that include the victim’s feeling that nothing can/will be done and the personal nature of the incident.7 // http://www.now.org/issues/violence/stats.html .

  2. For them is their way, for us is ours. If you post this article some where else like express tribune blog, be ready to face some bashing from the self appointed liberals.

  3. A very good analysis, we have our values and norms and that’s not only the beauty of our system but a bond also. Our Deen and our values are our pride. West or for that matter no society has the right to paint us in their colours. If the West wants to be respected, then first they must learn to respect.

  4. Mr Sethi your article Beautifully examines both the status of women and their role with our given cultural norms. As a field worker, i too have had my reservations over the way NGOs work simply to pocket foreign funding but there does exist a huge percentage of women who are opressed, in rural areas by the male clan and in urban, by women themselves. its the fight for power, fight for having a command, possession that leads to such behavioural patterns, social taboos in our society. and the problem can only be resolved through education..the much neglected sector in our policy making.

  5. Liberty in their term for a women means sexual expression that should not be opposed by the spouse!!

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