In 2016, it is still a man’s world. It’ll be a a tough adjustment when they have to share with another gender… oh wait, another gender DOES inhabit this planet too! They’re everywhere… like ants. Pesky ants trying to casually walk away with food, and jobs, and masculinity.
Men, meet women. You’ll have to look really far down, because they’re obviously beneath you. But not on the office floor! Make sure you go to the kitchen!
There’s no sense in denying that my Pakistani-ness makes me inherently bitter. Despite being privileged and educated, families like mine that encourage their girls to seek opportunities are few and far in a country of 192 million people.
As of 2013, the net enrollment ratio for girls in secondary education was 29.2% and the actual net attendance measured at 28.9% (UNICEF, 2016). According to a report by the Higher Education Commission, published in 2010, in universities, women made up 47% of Pakistan’s 1.1 million university students, up from 23% in 1993 (Hasan, 2011). These statistics shed some much needed positive light on the country’s attempt to educate its girls. Yet, higher education does not always lead to employment.
In 1990, the percentage of women in the Pakistani labour force was 13%, and the population of the country was approximately 107 million people (Worldpopulationinhistory.info, 2016). Twenty four years down the line the population increases by 85 million, and the percentage of women working increases by a mere 12% (Data.worldbank.org, 2016).
It is degrading to generalise the average Pakistani man down to sexually harrassers, but one can turn a deaf ear to women’s stories and pleas only so many times. Controversy ensued when Pakistan International Airlines officers were accused on numerous ocassions of harrassing the air hostesses, in the form of demanding gratification. They threaten them with demotion, withholding of promotions or dismissal if they do not oblige (Hasan, 2011). Former president, Asif Ali Zardari actually passed a bill in 2010, announcing sexual harrassment in the workplace to be a punishable offense (DAWN.COM, 2010). The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was a noble but lost cause. If you are Pakistani, you know that culture takes precedence over the legal system any day. I would refer to it as the justice system but where’s the justice?
Women from so-called respectable families are forced to stay silent, for fear of not being allowed to work or bringing shame on their family’s reputation and coming off as ‘impure’ after having been fondled by lewd men against their will (Hasan, 2011). Societal norm dictates that we be submissive and choose between an indecent work environment or no work and have the little shred of independence be taken away too.
In, Beijing, the year was 1995, Hillary Clinton spoke out at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women, and her speech resonates twenty years later. Her words “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights” began a movement (Chozick, 2016) , and I wish her words echoed all the way from China to Pakistan. We are neighbours after all. Of course she is American and her Western ideology is poisonous for our culture.
Fear not, ladies! There is hope. The new UN Women Pakistan #BeatMe campaign has elicited positive reactions around the world, and although the main message is advocating the anti-violence against women movement, its showcasing of strong women in their respective fields also highlights that work is not a man’s territory and they are not encroaching, but dominating. Despite statistics not backing that claim, Pakistani women, albeit a few, have shattered glass ceilings. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy wins an Academy Award, Pakistan’s female cricket team beats India’s, and everyday more girls trade the glass slippers for work boots.
Selina Ikramullah (Dubai campus)
Chozick, A. (2016). Hillary Clinton’s Beijing Speech on Women Resonates 20 Years Later. [online] First Draft. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/09/05/20-years-later-hillary-clintons-beijing-speech-on-women-resonates/?_r=0 [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].
Data.worldbank.org. (2016). Labor force participation rate, female (% of female population ages 15+) (modeled ILO estimate) | Data. [online] Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.ZS [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].
DAWN.COM. (2010). Zardari signs bill: Harassment of women is now a crime. [online] Available at: http://www.dawn.com/news/846465 [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].
Elsa, E. (2016). #BeatMe a campaign by UN Women Pakistan. [online] GulfNews. Available at: http://gulfnews.com/your-say/your-view/beatme-a-campaign-by-un-women-pakistan-1.1933709?utm_content=1.1933709&utm_medium=RSS&utm_source=Feeds&utm_campaign=%23BeatMe+a+campaign+by+UN+Women+Pakistan&localLinksEnabled=false&utm_term=Most+viewed+RSS+ [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].
Hasan, A. (2011). Challenges in the workplace: working women in Pakistan | Asia | DW.COM | 24.11.2011. [online] DW.COM. Available at: http://www.dw.com/en/challenges-in-the-workplace-working-women-in-pakistan/a-6666642 [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].
UNICEF. (2016). Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/pakistan_pakistan_statistics.html [Accessed 27 Nov. 2016].
Worldpopulationinhistory.info. (2016). Pakistan population 2016 by UN statistics since 1950 to 2100. [online] Available at: http://worldpopulationinhistory.info/Pakistan/2016/ [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].