Pakistani Women: The 'Suns' Of The Soil

Pakistani women’s participation in workforce is just 20% which is lowest not only in South Asia but also in the world and yet they do so much for the country.

Pakistani Women: The 'Suns' Of The Soil

Maya Angelo once said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women”. So is the case for Pakistani women. Born and raised up in a society based on patriarchal system where practices such as karo kari, vani, watta satta, and marriage to Quran are still rife even in the year 2024. 

Against such a backdrop, Pakistani women stand tall, not only nationally but also internationally. Their resilience and strength to break the glass ceiling, skillfully climbing each rung of the ladder, is praiseworthy. We have an exemplary female, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, before us. She became the first female Muslim in the world to reach the zenith of political hierarchy, a throne which Hilary Clinton could not achieve despite being a part of the most modern and democratic country in the world. 

Bhutto’s success paved way for Pakistani women in politics and today we have women as the Chief Minister, Deputy Speaker and many as members of the Parliament. In a historic achievement, women from Kohistan made headlines by voting for the first time in 2024 general elections. They deserve a pat on the back.

The achievements do not end here. In a society where a woman is falsely accused of blasphemy for wearing an attire designed with Arabic text, Erica Robin, a model from Christian minority group, privately represented the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in a burkini and modest attires. Despite all odds, she managed to win a spot in the top twenty. 

In another case, Eva B, a hijabi rapper from a humble Lyari background, made headlines with her rap songs. Eva B takes pride in her purdah and follows her passion for rap music in a hijab. Such is the resilience of Pakistani women. Respecting their culture and religion, and yet achieving their passion.

A society where menfolk of “jirga” and “panchaiyat” take the laws in their hands and often come up with harrowing judgments against women, Justice Ayesha Malik raised the bar for Pakistani women by reaching the highest echelon of judicial system. Sitting with authority on her seat, she made an indelible imprint in history by abolishing the two finger test. 

Here, I am reminded of another Pakistani woman, Khadija Siddiqi, a law student who was stabbed 23 times by her classmate. Not only did she bravely fight for her life but also for justice to put the convict behind bars. Her resilience and dedication to her cause is praiseworthy as she sat with the convict in the same examination hall when he was briefly acquitted in the attempted murder case against him.

Pakistani women took no time to shed their “sinf-e –nazuk” garb and to redress themselves as “sinf-e-Ahan”. General Shahida Malik became the first female two star general in Pakistan Army. Lt, Gen. Nigar Johar raised the bar even higher by becoming the first female general with three stars. Probably none of us is familiar with the name of Shukriya Khanum who became the first woman pilot of Pakistan in 1959, a period when women were not allowed to fly commercial airline. Today female fighter pilots are flying high, defending the sky, along with their male counterparts. 

In the health sector women work as doctors, nurses, paramedics and caregivers. In our country, medicine is considered the most suitable profession for females and a doctor bride is considered by many a trophy, good for ones image in society. But being a patriarchal society it hurts the pride of a man to allow his wife to earn money. One does not need to look far to find lady doctors quitting their jobs after marriage because of lack of approval to work from in-laws.  Even in this scenario, many doctor brides are using their education by practicing telemedicine. Here, it is apposite to mention the courage of female polio workers who brave against all odds to make Pakistan polio free. 

Pakistani women have made us proud by pursuing their passion in the field of cricket. Steve Curry, a Daily Mail journalist, once declared that “a woman commenting on football is abhorrent: it’s an insult.” This is hilarious if one compares this comment with the prowess of Zainab Abass, Sana Mir and Urooj Mumtaz. The prejudices against women are ingrained in our culture and women in Pakistan are working hard to remove these prejudices.

There are millions of unknown rural women working in the background for big fashion houses making them successful at national and international level. Their handwork in the form of stitching, embroidery, dyeing, embellishing is praised all over while they themselves remain anonymous. The agriculture sector is heavily depended on the work of women. Women work side by side their menfolk for cotton picking, harvesting, sowing etc. yet their contribution remains unpaid and unnoticed. They are the successful hands behind the informal and formal sector.

Quaid E Azam said “No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.” Quaid had Fatima Jinnah’s support when he found Pakistan. Abdul Sattar Edhi had Bilquis Edhi when Edhi ambulance network became the largest network in the world. Pakistani women’s participation in workforce is just 20% which is lowest not only in South Asia but also in the world. 

If this 20% could achieve so much just imagine how much impact would 100% participation cause. Despite all the hurdles Pakistani women shine brightly like a sun in a clouded sky. Each woman has her own energy and shine like the sun which makes its effort to beat the clouded sky and spread its light to illuminate the objects around them. They are the true “Suns” of the soil. May you shine brighter every day.