Here’s to the strong women, “May we be them.” “
May we raise them” “May we know them”.
Today Pakistan is celebrating its independence day. Pakistan was a state that was carved on the map of South Asia as a miracle that stunned the world. The people of this land scarified their families and their lands and honor for the country. We often hear many noteworthy names who struggled for the creation of Pakistan but today we have forgotten the sacrifices and powerful political role of women leaders during Pakistan movement. The shackles of Pakistan’s patriarchal society has made people forget these iron ladies who stood next to men and worked day and night to politically mobilize people and turning the dream of Pakistan into a reality.
Prominent names such as Fatimah Jinnah, Begum Shahnawaz, Salma Tassadque Hussain, Begum Liaqat Ali Khan, Fatima Sughra are the monuments of courage and strength. These were those names that struggled on the streets and in the cabinets for a peaceful state for the coming generations. They fought for promoting and creating awareness about women issues and fought for their rights. But sadly in today’s Pakistan people rarely discuss their struggle for Pakistan and how they performed with courage and grace in the political decision making processes.
Unfortunately the syllabus taught at schools and colleges never did mentioned about the significant role played by these iron women during the Pakistan movement nor did the media ever highlighted their efforts and their struggle this shows how unsupportive and misogynistic our society has become with time. In this “new” “progressive Pakistan” it’s so hard for women to make their standing in the political process and national affairs decision making processes. For example when Prime Minister Imran Khan formed his cabinet of 24 members, only 3 women were part of this cabinet this includes Dr. Shireen Mazari, Zubaida Jalal, and Dr. Fehmida Mirza. On the other hand, in Punjab cabinet there are only one woman, Dr Yasmeen Rashid and no one else on the legislation making seats. The most disappointing situation is in KPK and Baluchistan cabinets where there is no women representation. Its 21st century and women in Pakistan still have to struggle for basic rights.
Even if they are part of a cabinet their opinion will not have the same worth as of men cabinet members. The reason behind this is our male dominated society that is suffocating women in Pakistan. Why the men of our society have this thinking that they are the one who have to grant permission to women for political participation? Why the political culture is influenced by the patriarchy? Until when we will ignore the 50% educated and potential population merely because of their gender? Until when we will hide behind the façade of religion, values, culture, honor.
Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah never envisioned such a society where women leadership is a far flung dream. Madam Fatima Jinnah was with him at his every step and guided him in the political affairs.
This depicts the women empowering thought of Quaid e Azam Muahmmad Ali Jinnah for all the women of Pakistan. It is highly important to include women on significant decision making positions and inclusion in the decision making institution. This is important because without the inclusion of women no legislature could be formed for women empowerment and for the protection of their rights. Women inclusion is crucial for understand the issues and challenges faced by women of the Pakistani society.
Abadi Bano Begum famously known as Bi Amman played a significant role during the Pakistan movement. She was the mother of Moulana Shaukat Ali and made a strong impact on the Khilafat movement. She openly fought in the freedom struggle and was the mother of two great brothers, “the Ali brothers”. She made impactful speeches in Lahore for ending communal violence and propagated the message of harmony and peace in the sub-continent. Unfortunately, Pakistan has never recognized her efforts and her name were black out from the history books.
Our patriarchal society didn’t stopped here, Begum Jahan Ara Shah Nawaz was a sign of a leader who fought for women rights and struggled for the formation of laws that would protect their rights and will empower them. She performed her political and leadership responsibilities in an astonishing way. Begum Shaista Ikramullah also fought in the freedom struggle, worked and voiced the issues of women. She was the first women to earn a PHD from the University of London; she was an author, a thinker, a fighter. She was selected as a delegate by Quaid e Azam for UN representation. She struggled tirelessly for the active role of women in law formation.
It was a time when a woman in politics was a taboo for the society but even today things have not changed. She struggled from Pardah to parliament but her efforts remain unrecognized. But these women fought against the bogus norms of society.
Women still have to experience hostile political culture, women are still labeled and stigmatized if they think out of the box and refuse to be caged by our patriarchal society, and women still struggle but remain overlooked because of their gender.
In this so called modern and progressive Pakistan, women are still not considered eligible for decision making despite of having better education, exposure and skill then a male adversary; they are ignored because they are women.
Pakistan needs to change its political culture and make it more understanding and accepting for women in politics. The stories of these iron women should be included in the curriculum so that the coming generations will know that Pakistan’s struggle was not a male chauvinistic drama. It had women who struggled on ground and made historic speeches to the public about this cause. They were capable of handling the societal pressures and were capable of performing leadership roles. Our society desperately needs more women like Begum Shahnawaz, Fatima Sughra, Salma Tassadque Hussain and Bi Amma.
There is a need to change the perceptions of our people about women in politics or any field. It is high time to create a more accepting and healthy society for all genders. Pakistani society needs to break the shackles of misogynistic mindset and put an end to patriarchy that had handicapped 50% of the population. Patriarchy is not about men, it’s embedded in the system and structure of the society. It has to change gradually by education and law making. We not necessary need to remember Madam Fatima Jinnah as a sister who supported her brother. She should be remembered as a solid foundation in the freedom struggle and an adviser, an intellectual, a political scientist and a fighter for a cause.
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