Sunday, March 8, 2009

Status of Women in Pakistan

On March 8, 2009, the International Women's Day today, how are women faring in Pakistan? The status of women in Pakistan continues to vary considerably across different classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and urban social customs on women's lives. While some women are soaring in the skies as pilots of passenger jets and supersonic fighter planes, others are being buried alive for defying tribal traditions.

In terms of the women's political representation in the nation's parliament, there has clearly never been a better time. The discriminatory laws such as the Hudood ordnance have been repealed or diluted. In addition to dozens of women colleges and universities, some of the co-educational professional institutions of higher learning have 50% or higher enrollment of women. Girls account for 53% of all college students in Pakistan, according to the 2005 Education Census. There are other indicators such as women's growing numbers in the traditional male professions such as engineering, law, medicine, business, the police and the military. Women's ranks have also grown in the nation's entertainment, news and mass media and they are much freer than ever to express themselves in the choice of appearance, speech, clothing, arts, entertainment etc. There have even been performances of The Vagina Monologues in Pakistan. Localized with Urdu and Punjabi words, The Vagina Monologues was first staged in Islamabad in 2003 for an audience of 160, mostly women, followed by performances for mixed audiences in Karachi and Lahore. Organized with AMAL, an NGO working on gender rights in Pakistan, the actresses added information about local incidents of violence against women and honor killings.

Along with the signs of women's progress in Pakistan, there have also been high-profile incidents of violence against women, such as live burial of women in Baba Kot, a village 50 miles from Usta Mohammad town of Jafferabad district in Baluchistan, that rekindled an honest discussion and debate on the status of women in rural and tribal Pakistan. To add insult to injury, Pakistani Senator Mir Israrullah Zehri defended this crime by arguing on the Senate floor that "It is a Baluch tribal tradition and we have to respect it". The Senator was then rewarded by the PPP government with a promotion as a member of the federal cabinet.

While the speaker of Pakistan's parliament is a woman and the representation of women in the legislature has grown dramatically, most of the women representatives are from the same privileged, feudal/tribal class that is largely responsible for discrimination against women in Pakistan. These women in parliament have not been particularly vocal in raising the women's issues and they have not offered any serious legislation other than the Women's Protection Bill that was offered and passed because of President Musharraf's personal intervention in the last parliament. The word "feudal princess" often used to describe late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto applies well to the majority the women members of parliament in Pakistan. There is a continuing large literacy gap of as much as 45 percent between men and women and the opportunities for rural women's education remain elusive.

Media reports indicate that Pakistani Taliban have been enforcing a complete ban on female education in the Swat district. Some 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls have been shut down. At least 10 girls' schools that tried to open after the January 15, 2009 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by the militants in the town of Mingora, the headquarters of the Swat district. More than 170 schools have been bombed or burned, along with other government-owned buildings.

According to Dawn newspaper, the 2008 report of violence against women in Pakistan makes horrific reading. In that year alone, 7,733 cases of violence against women were reported in the media. What is shocking is the large number of women who lost their lives in this period — 1,516 were murdered while 472 were killed for reasons of ‘honor’.

Overall, the World Economic Forum ranks South Asia and several Arab nations among the lowest in terms of economic participation, economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and well-being. The WEF 2005 survey shows that India ranks at 53 is just above Korea, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt which occupy the last five positions in that order but below Bangladesh which gets the 39th slot. Seven predominantly Muslim nations covered by the study, Bangladesh (39) and Malaysia (40) outperform Indonesia (46), while Jordan (55), Pakistan (56), Turkey (57) and Egypt (58) occupy the bottom four ranks.

In summary, the Musharraf era saw some measurable progress in improving the status for women, in spite of the high-profile incidents such as the rape of Mukhtaran Mai. But the progress seems to have been halted and even rolled back under the feudal/tribal dominated PPP government. The appointment of the notorious tribal chiefs like Zehri and Bijarani as federal minister has clearly sent terribly wrong signals to the oppressors of women in Pakistan. What is really needed is a fundamental change in social attitudes toward women, particularly in rural and tribal Pakistan. A massive effort is required to make both men and women aware of the need and the benefits of women's empowerment for a better future of Pakistan. Healthy, educated and empowered women can help raise better children to build Pakistan as a modern society that cares for its people.

A number of non-governmental organizations such as AMAL, Aurat, HDF ,Edhi and other similar organizations deserve our support if we care for the enhancement of women's status in Pakistan.

Here's a video showing Pakistan's female commercial pilots:

Related Links:

Are Women Better Off in Pakistan Today?

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Religious Leaders Respond to Domestic Violence

Fighting Agents of Intolerance

A Woman Speaker: Another Token or Real Change

A Tale of Tribal Terror

Mukhtaran Mai-The Movie

World Economic Forum Survey of Gender Gap


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in today's New York Times about Mukhtar Mai who became a symbol of oppressed women in Pakistan fighting for their rights:

Mukhtar Mai, the resilient Pakistani who was gang raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council but became a symbol of hope for voiceless and oppressed women, has married.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Ms. Mukhtar, 37, said her new husband was a police constable who was assigned to guard her in the wake of the attack and who had been asking for her hand for several years. She is his second wife.

She said the constable, Nasir Abbas Gabol, 30, and she married Sunday in a simple ceremony in her dusty farming village, Meerwala, in Punjab Province.

“He says he madly fell in love with me,” Ms. Mukhtar said with a big laugh when asked what finally persuaded her to say yes.

Pakistani rape victims often commit suicide, but Ms. Mukhtar, who is also know as Mukhtaran Bibi, instead successfully challenged her attackers in court, winning international renown for her bravery. She runs several schools, an ambulance service and a women’s aid group in her village and has written an autobiography. By marrying, she has defeated another stigma against rape victims in conservative Pakistani society.

Riaz Haq said...

Recent flogging of 17-year-old Chand Bibi in Swat by the Taliban has brought to national attention the growing brutalization of Pakistani society. Though we are horrified and outraged, at another level, we are not surprised. The Pakistani Taliban avowed to follow the Afghan Taliban pattern, so this act being consistent with the pattern, should have been anticipated by the NWFP and Islamabad governments.

This act is also part of an emerging pattern of targeting the marginalized sections of society: the women; the representatives of art and culture and the minorities.

Riaz Haq said...

A poster named PakDoc posted the following on recently:

These are a few of the many world recognized accomplished Muslim women of Pakistan. I know, being a medical doctor that 70% of medical school population of Pakistan is female. Because, female students attain better scores than their male colleagues in colleges to qualify for medical school candidancy on merit. Engineering schools have less female students as the profession is not preferred by women due to involvement of field work but business and administration is seeing a rise in number of female professionals.

This is an incomplete list of well-known female figures of Pakistan….

Journalists and Literataries:
I know i am missing many reknown journalists and book authors...but this is just an example list for our ignorant neighbours who make up stories about oppression of women in Islam.

Razia Bhatti: Editor of the Herald for 12 years and then of Newsline for another eight. Recipient of the “Courage in Journalism” award from the New York based International Women's Media Foundation

Ismat Chughtai: one of the four pillars of modern Urdu fiction along with Saadat Hassan Manto, Krishen Chander, and Rajinder Singh Bedi.”

Bapsi Sidhwa: Bapsi Sidhwa is the author of four novels and one of Pakistan's most prominent English fiction writers. In 1991, Bapsi Sidhwa was the recipient of Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan's highest honor in arts bestowed upon a citizen. In 1998, her novel Cracking India was adopted into the movie, Earth, by renowned filmmaker, Deepa Mehta.

Bano Qudsia: is a writer, intellectual, playwright and spiritualist from Pakistan who is regarded among the best Urdu novelists and short story writers of modern times.

Fatima Surayya Bajia,:Pride of Performance, is a renowned Urdu novelist, playwright and drama writer of Pakistan. She has been awarded various awards at home and abroad including Japan's highest civil award in recognition of her works. She also remained Advisor to the Chief Minister of Sindh province of Pakistan

Sharmeen Obaid is a journalist and a documentary filmmaker. Her documentary films have been aired on Discovery Times channel and PBS/Frontline World. She won the American Women in Radio and Television Gracie Award and the Overseas Press Club Award and Banff Rockie Special Jury Award.

Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah: She was Pakistan's first female columnist (in English), editor, publisher and political commentator. Founder and editor-publisher of the “Mirror”, the first social glossy magazine in South Asia.

Shireen Mazari: Pakistani academic, defence analyst, journalist and politician. She is currently working as the editor of the conservative daily The Nation newspaper and as the Information Secretary of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party. She has also served as the Director General of The Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad and was until recently a regular columnist at the daily The News International.

Shyema Sajjad Khan: Desk Editor, DAWN Media Group Online

Quratulain Siddiqui: Desk Editor, DAWN Media Group Online

Ms. Huma Yusuf: Features Editor, DAWN Media Group Online

Afshan Subohi: Editor, DAWN, Economic and Business Review (EBR)

Saima Shakil Hussain: DAWN magazine editor.

Mariam Ali Baig: Editor Aurora magazine.

Arifa Noor: Editor Herald.

Reba Shahid: Editor Spider

Riaz Haq said...

A poster named PakDoc posted the following on recently:

Beena Sarwar: Beena Sarwar is an artist, journalist and documentary filmmaker focusing on human rights, gender, media, and peace. She was Features Editor of 'The Frontier Post', Lahore, founding editor of weekly 'The News on Sunda\', Pakistan and is on the Editorial Board of monthly Himal Southasian, Kathmandu

Ayesha Haroon: Editor The Nation.

Public Welfare Contributors:
This list could be endless too.There are numerous social workers workign under different banners, making an effort to contribute to society.

Bilquis Edhi: administrator and co-owner of Edhi Foundation (especially the Women’s wing). Edhi Foundation operates the world’s largest volunteer ambulance service. In addition, Edhi’s staff runs a missing-persons hot line and more than a dozen homes for orphans, the homeless, battered women, the mentally ill and drug addicts. He has set up literacy-training courses for all ages, free medical clinics and a soup kitchen that serves 1,000 free meals a day. She is a receiver of The Rotary Club Award and The 1986 Ramon Magsay Award for public service (Phillipines) and is currently being considered for the UNICEF award for Women’s Welfare Work.

Hasan Ara Begum: Pioneered meena bazaars for ladies. founded an orphanage known as Bait-ul-AfJal. During partition, she supervised the women refugee relief committees working for the penniless and disabled people.

Tehmina Janjua :Deputy permanent representative to Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva.

Kehkashan Azhar: Occupies the number two slot in UN’s Hague mission

Dr. Nafis Sadik: Gynaecologist by profession. Nafis Sadik has received awards from governments and organizations in many countries including Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States. When she accepted the post of Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 1987, she became one of the highest ranking women in the UN and the first women ever to serve as an executive head of one of the UN’s major voluntarily funded programs. Echoing the sentiments of many others, at the Hague International Forum in 1999, Hillary Rodham Clinton said of Nafis Sadik, “I believe that the world owes her a debt of gratitude for all she has done over the years to place women at the very center of development.”

Fine Arts and Performing Arts:
I have not included actresses, singers, performers, anchors etc in this list in an effort to make it short.

Riaz Haq said...

A poster named PakDoc posted the following on recently:

Mehreen Jabbar: Mehreen Jabbar is a young filmmaker who has made several short independent art films to commercial serials for television. Her success as a director can be assessed by the fact that her work has appeared in many film festivals around the world. She studied in US and completed a two year program at UCLA in film making.

Sabiha Sumar: Independent filmmaker, Sabiha Sumar, has earned much acclaim for her films. She won the Golden Leopard award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2003 and Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1998.

Outstanding Professionals:
Am just listing two because there are countless doctors, engineers, IT professionals, MBAs etc...would take forever to mention pakistani women who have excelled in these fields...

Dr. Nafis Sadik: Gynaecologist by profession. Nafis Sadik has received awards from governments and organizations in many countries including Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States. When she accepted the post of Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 1987, she became one of the highest ranking women in the UN and the first women ever to serve as an executive head of one of the UN’s major voluntarily funded programs. Echoing the sentiments of many others, at the Hague International Forum in 1999, Hillary Rodham Clinton said of Nafis Sadik, “I believe that the world owes her a debt of gratitude for all she has done over the years to place women at the very center of development.”

Yasmeen Lari: Yasmeen Lari has the distinction of being Pakistan’s first woman architect. She is the Principle of Lari Associates, one of the best-known architecural practies in the country. Now serving as an advisor to UNESCO project, Conservation and Preservation of Lahore Fort. She is also the executive director of Heritage Foundation and the Chairperson of Karavan Initiatives, both are organizations devoted to historic preservation. President of the Institute of Architects, Pakistan (IAP) and the first Chairperson of the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP).

Few of the many are:

Atiqa Odho: CEO of two companies “Odho productions” and “Odho cosmetics”. Reknown TV artist, make-up artist and hairstylist. She has studied several courses in film making, theater and voice training in NYC.

Ambreen Gul and Anam Faiq: 2 of 7 Fighter pilots trained to fly F-7 supersonic fighter jets.

Veena Masud :Honorary Secretary of the Pakistan Women’s Swimming Association, president of the Sindh Women’s Swimming Association, and executive committee member of the Pakistan Olympic Association.

Naela Chohan is a Pakistani diplomat and feminist artist. She has been a member of the Board of Governors of the Pakistan Film Censor Board, and of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Employment Corporation of Pakistan, and Inter State Gas System (Pvt). Naela Chohan also has experience in Chemical Weapons Disarmament, being the first civilian and woman to head the National Authority on the Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in Pakistan. She is an alumnus of Quaid-e-Azam University, the Centre d'Études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques, The École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, École du Louvre, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Arfa Karim Randhawa: one of the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in the world. MKRF working with Microsoft, Pakistan awarded Arfa with the Shabash award for her achievements. She received the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal, the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award and the President's Award for Pride.

Riaz Haq said...

A poster named PakDoc posted the following on recently:

Contrary to popular perception women’s sports were never banned in the country. Women participate in various sports all over the country – cricket, hockey, track, swimming, football – even participating in international competitions.

Fourteen of Pakistani women swimmers at the Fourth Islamic Women’s Games (Tehran, September 2005), won 10 of Pakistan’s 19 medals. They came second in the swimming events and seventh among the 45 participating countries. Pakistan sent two women swimmers (Sana Wahid and Kiran Khan) to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, July 2001. In the 9th SAF (South Asian Federation) Games in Islamabad 2004, Pakistani girls took 14 medals in womens swimming.

Pakistan women football team has played against Afghanistan and Jordan and are planning to visit Maldives and Norway this year.

Rubab Raza: first female swimmer to represent Pakistan at the Olympics at Athens

Kiran Khan: Pakistani swimmer olympian to Beijing.

Sumera Zahoor: Pakistani female track Olympian

Anmaar Habib: first women skier to represent Pakistan at an international level and she is now training for 2010 winter Olympics

This would have been a long list.... there are thousands of pakistani women associated with fields of education and health working in Pakistan and abroad. It would be a tiresome job to list even the highest contributors.I have mentioned just a couple of such women.

Prof. Dr. Bushra Mateen: Vice Chancellor - Lahore College for Women University. Her remarkable achievement is that UNESCO has established ISESCO/UNESCO chair for women in science in the Asian region in Lahore College for Women University on 18th DEC 2004. President Sports Committee, Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education. Member Board of Governors, Fatima Jinnah College (Choona Mandi). Member Chancellor Committee Fatima Jinnah Women University 1998-2000. President Punjab Women Hockey Association. Vice President Punjab Volley ball Association.

Ayesha Jalal: is a sociologist and historian. She is a professor of history at Tufts University and a MacArthur Fellow. Jalal is among the most prominent American academics who writes on the history of India and Pakistan. Jalal taught at Columbia University for several years


Fatima Jinnah: One of the leaders of Pakistan's independence movement. A dentist by profession at a time when taking up a profession was considered inappropriate for girls in India.

Rana L. A. Khan: Founder and life-long president of APWA, Begum Liaquat played a pioneering role in the advancement of women in political, educational, economic and other fields. A chain of schools, colleges, industrial homes and other institutions were set up by the APWA. In the field of education, she founded Rana Liaquat Ali Khan College of Home Economics which opened home economic colleges in Karachi, Lahore and Dhaka. Other important women’s bodies that she founded included the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the Friends of APWA and the International Women’s Club.

Benazir Bhutto: former prime minister of Pakistan and Chairperson of Pakistan people’s party.

Dr.Maleeha Lodhi: a journalist-turned-diplomat, high commissioner to the UK. Pakistan’s longest serving ambassador to the US.

Seema Naqvi: director general of policy planning. Pakistani embassador to Egypt.

Riaz Haq said...

A poster named PakDoc posted the following on recently:

Seema Naqvi: director general of policy planning. Pakistani embassador to Egypt.

Fauzia Abbas: Pakistani embassador to Denmark

Asma Anisa: Pakistani embassador to France

Tasnim Aslam: First woman diplomat to serve as the Foreign Office spokesperson. First Pakistani woman diplomat to be appointed as ambassador to Italy.

Naghmana Hashmi: Pakistani embassador to Ireland

Zehra Akbari: Pakistani embassador to Mexico

Seema Baloch: Pakistani embassador to Poland

Fauzia Sana: Pakistani embassador to Portugal

Ayesha Riaz: Pakistani embassador to Switzerland

Humaira Hasan: Pakistani embassador to Spain

Riffat Iqbal: Pakistani embassador to Zimbabwe

Fauzia Nasreen: Former ambassador to Nepal.

Atiya Mehmud: Additional foreign secretary, Foreign ministry headquarter, US division.

Shireen Moiz,: former additional foreign secretary. Former Ambassador of Pakistan to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Shehrbano Rehman: journalist, former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Pakistan, formoer editor-in-chief of Herald. First Pakistani to be recognized with an award for independent journalism by the UK House of Lords in its Muslim World Awards Ceremony 2002.

Barrister Shahida Jamil: First woman in Pakistan to be appointed as Provincial Law Minister, Sind and then Federal Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights and Parliamentary Affairs. Advocate High Court of Sindh since 1980 L.L. M. Professor on “Human Rights” at Pakistan’s leading legal education institution, Sindh Muslim Law College, Karachi since 1987. World Bank Consultant, on “Karachi Port Trust Legal Framework Study” for the World Bank, Washington, USA. Chairperson Regional Steering Committee (Asia-Pacific) for the Economic Advancement of Rural & Island women. President Pakistan Hockey Federation (Women’s Wing). President Pakistan-Bangladesh Federation Association.

Perveen Sikandar Gill : Secretary, Pakistan Hockey Federation (Women Wing); Vice President, Punjab Olympic Association Punjab; and Senior Vice President, Lahore College Old Association Pakistan. She has also served as Deputy Speaker, City District Government Lahore; as Member City District Government, Lahore; and as Councillor Municipal Corporation Lahore for four terms during 1979-98. She has been elected as Member Provincial Assembly of the Punjab in General Elections 2002 against one of the seats reserved for women; and is functioning as Chairperson, Standing Committee on Sports since September 12, 2003; and is also member of Standing Committee on Education.

Nilofar Bakhtiar: Former Federal Minister for Tourism. Founder and chairperson of The National Committee for the Repatriation.

Fehmida Mirza: First woman to be elected as speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly.

and many more......................................

Riaz Haq said...

Gender gaps are among the widest in South Asia. Pakistan is ranked at 132, third from the bottom on a list of 134 nations compiled by the World Economic Forum for 2009. Only Chad and Yemen rank worse than Pakistan.

Ranked 114, India has fared better than Pakistan. But the WEF survey indicates that India is behind Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal - affirming that women in these countries share resources with men more equally than in India. Echoing concerns of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen over female infanticide and 25 million "missing women" in India, the WEF rankings bring out the gender gap on health and survival issues. India's gender gap of 22% in literacy is also among the worst in the world.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Haaretz report about high unemployment of Arab women in Israel:

Nearly 11,000 Arab women with college degrees are unemployed, according to a study carried out by Yaser Awad of Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, on Arab women in the employment market. Some 58 percent of these unemployed women place the blame for this on a shortage of work, while only 29 percent attribute it to cultural reasons, according to a study conducted by Dr. Yousef Jabareen of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

To underscore Steinitz's point, the finance minister added that the low rate of participation of Arab women in the labor market was characteristic of societies in Arab countries. But here too, he was not being precise.

The number of Arab women employed in Israel is very low compared to the total number of women who are employed in Israel - 21.1 percent compared with 51.3 percent. On the other hand, the rate of female employment in Saudi Arabia and Oman - two countries generally considered to have low female employment rates - is 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively. The rate in Morocco is 41.9 percent, and as high as 63.3 percent in Mauritania.

These figures are inconsistent with Steinitz's explanations about the "cultural obstacles, traditional frameworks and the belief that Arab women have to remain in their hometowns" that he says "hold back this population's integration in the work force."

It is not difficult to find strong-willed and capable women among the large number of unemployed Arab college graduates whose very decision to leave the house to pursue their studies, with the intention of working in one profession or another, shatter the minister's claims of "cultural" and "traditional" barriers to employment. On the other hand, the poor infrastructure and almost total absence of public transit to and from the Arab villages play a central role in the women's social exclusion and have a negative effect on their ability - though not their desire - to join the work force.

A 2007 survey by the Kayan feminist organization for Arab women in Israel found that the public transit to and from 11 Arab communities in the Galilee and the Triangle region was less developed than the transportation in other parts of the country. The buses do not usually enter the Arab villages, forcing passengers to get on and off the bus at junctions leading to the villages. In addition, the buses only come in the early morning and at the end of the work day. For the most part, the buses run on main thoroughfares and through Jewish towns, and there is only one bus that serves a number of Arab villages, making the ride slow and tedious.

To this must be added the shortage of government employment assistance - there are only 14 Employment Service branches in Arab communities - and the lack of suitable employment training programs. Other factors that contribute to the low employment rate include the shortage of day-care centers in Arab towns (of 1,600 day-care centers for children under 3 that receive government assistance, only 25 operate in Arab communities) and government-supported industrial zones (only 3.2 percent are in Arab areas). In addition, Arab women constitute a mere 3 percent of civil servants, even though the civil service is the largest employer of women in Israel.

The so-called social characteristics the finance minister spoke about therefore only partially explain the low participation rate of Arab women in the work force. The minister has placed the burden of proof on the Arab women while he frees his ministry and the government of all responsibility and ignores the disparity in government assistance cited here, which stems from a government policy of deliberate and consistent discrimination against Arab citizens.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report about healthcare for mothers giving birth in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD- Pakistan ranks 72 among 75 less-developed countries as the best places to be a mother, in the same list, Sri Lanka ranks 54 and India ranks 70.
These facts were revealed on Saturday in the 10th annual Mothers’ Index issued by “Save the Children”.The global ranking is highlighted in the organization’s State of the World’s Mothers 2009 report, which focuses on the link between investing in early learning opportunities for young children and success in school. The Mothers’ Index was based on an analysis of indicators of women and children’s health educational, economic status and well being.
The top-10 countries, in general, have very high scores for mothers and children’s health, while the 10 bottom-ranked countries are a reverse image, performing poorly on all indicators. The report intensely presented comparisons of countries in the Mothers Index. In the overall global Mothers Index, Sweden ranks first in the world and Nigeria the last. According to report a typical woman in Pakistan has less than six years of schooling versus a typical woman in India who receives nine years and 12 years in Sri Lanka of formal education.
It also stated that 1 child in 10 does not reach his or her 5th birthday in Pakistan and in Sweden, only 1 child in 333 dies before age of 5.
“Fewer than 39 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel in Pakistan; 99 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel in Sri Lanka”, the report further noted. It also informed that female life expectancy in Pakistan is 66, 44 in Afghanistan, 67 in India and 76 in Sri Lanka. While addressing at the occasion Charles MacCormack, President and CEO of “Save the Children” gave detailed description regarding key findings of report.

Masadi said...

Some would argue convincingly that the oppression of women in advanced capitalistic societies is greater than that in classical patriarchal (agricultural) societies. Not only have the roles of women based on sexuality and motherhood been retained in advanced capitalism, marriage has been weakened and sexuality cheapened (thereby logically reducing the status of women in such societies) and equal opportunity has not been created in the job sphere to compensate for that (Hochschild 1983).

Further, women’s oppressors are hidden (unlike patriarchal societies) leading to self blame and invisibility of targets of resistance (Marcuse 1964:32). Also, added to this mix of ultra oppression is the fact of objectification of women (Kilbourne 1999, Marcuse 1964), something unique to capitalist modes of production. The physical veil has been replaced by an implicit personality veil where women are valued based upon sexuality and motherhood only, making everything else about them effectively invisible.

Hochschild, Arlie. 1983 (2003). The Managed Heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion. New York: The Free Press.

Marcuse, Herbert. 1964. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Marcuse writes "Hatred and Frustration are deprived of their specific target, and the technological veil conceals the reproduction of inequality and enslavement...the slaves of developed industrial civilization are sublimated slaves but they are slaves, for slavery is determined. This is the pure form of servitude: to exist as an instrument, as a thing" (page320)

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting revelations about Gandhi's attitude toward women, as published in the Guardian newspaper:

During Gandhi's time as a dissident in South Africa, he discovered a male youth had been harassing two of his female followers. Gandhi responded by personally cutting the girls' hair off, to ensure the "sinner's eye" was "sterilised". Gandhi boasted of the incident in his writings, pushing the message to all Indians that women should carry responsibility for sexual attacks upon them. Such a legacy still lingers. In the summer of 2009, colleges in north India reacted to a spate of sexual harassment cases by banning women from wearing jeans, as western-style dress was too "provocative" for the males on campus.

Gandhi believed Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community honour. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. But the damage was done, and the legacy lingers in every present-day Indian press report of a rape victim who commits suicide out of "shame". Gandhi also waged a war against contraceptives, labelling Indian women who used them as whores.

Like all men who wage a doomed war with their own sexual desires, Gandhi's behaviour around females would eventually become very, very odd. He took to sleeping with naked young women, including his own great-niece, in order to "test" his commitment to celibacy. The habit caused shock and outrage among his supporters. God knows how his wife felt.

Gandhi cemented, for another generation, the attitude that women were simply creatures that could bring either pride or shame to the men who owned them. Again, the legacy lingers. India today, according to the World Economic Forum, finds itself towards the very bottom of the gender equality index. Indian social campaigners battle heroically against such patriarchy. They battle dowry deaths. They battle the honour killings of teenage lovers. They battle Aids. They battle female foeticide and the abandonment of new-born girls.

Rahul said...

Mr. Riaz...Just surfing your blog I came to this article. I was happy on reading your comments and information about the progress of women in your country. But I lost respect for you, when I saw the comment on Mahatma Gandhi. I don't know where you get the facts of this absurd comment, because I have read many books on this great man, by both national & foreign writers and also by his critics. Never I have read such a thing.

I would request you to please show proof for this comment, and also don't try to tarnish the image of that man, who was also responsible for the independence of your country. (Ya ya you will say Jinnah, but simply history says otherwise. But I will not argue on this, as it is impossible to make you people understand the real history of freedom movement.)

Riaz Haq said...

Rahul: "I was happy on reading your comments and information about the progress of women in your country."

Women in Pakistan have a long way to go, particularly rural, tribal women who are heavily discriminated against.

Rahul: "But I lost respect for you, when I saw the comment on Mahatma Gandhi. I don't know where you get the facts of this absurd comment, because I have read many books on this great man, by both national & foreign writers and also by his critics. Never I have read such a thing."

I have a lot of respect for both Gandhi and Jinnah. But neither man was perfect. Each had their own flaws and reflected the values and thinking of their time.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent piece on atrocities against Dalit women in India:

New Delhi, March 5

India's leading feminist Dalit novelist-cum-politician P. Sivakami feels that most gender atrocities in the country are committed against Dalit women.

The former senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer gave up her job to become a full-time writer in 2008.

"In the society that is known as mainstream, the problems of Dalit women are considered separatist. They face the worst expressions of male chauvinistic society - atrocities like raping, profiling, physical assault and murder," Chennai-based Sivakami, who has just completed her new novel "The New People" in Tamil told IANS.

"But, I don't think the problems are separatist at all. They reflect the general bias at the grassroots against women as in tribal societies," she said.

Sivakami, who has often made headlines with her radical views, contested the Lok Sabha election on a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket from Kanyakumari in 2009, but lost. The same year in December, she floated her own political party, Samuga Samathuva Padai (Forum for Social Equality).

"When we talk of women's empowerment, we give priority to those who live below the poverty line -- malnourished and poor women. Even in that respect, Dalit women are the worst affected," she argued.

Stressing that incidence of domestic violence is highest among Dalit women, she said more men drink and assault women at home because they do not make enough money.

As far as their health statistics is concerned, nearly 100,000 women die at childbirth every year and a large number of them are Dalit women, the writer said.

Sivakami feels that the concept of education for Dalit women is yet to take root in the society.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a partial transcript of a recent NPR ToTn dscussion about a book "Paradise Beneath Her Feet" written Isabel Coleman about women;s rights in Islam:

CONAN: And let me anticipate some questions from our audience. Some might argue that there are aspects of Islam and some cultural traditions, too, that seem incompatible with equality for women.

Ms. COLEMAN: I think that's probably true, that there are aspects, if you read the Christian Bible quite literally, that pose challenges for women, and that's absolutely true of the Quran. There are passages in the Quran that pose challenges for women's rights within Islam.

But that doesn't mean that you can't still look at the text and contextualize them. What many of the men and women today are trying to do within Islam is argue that times change, and you have to read them differently. You have to think about them in the present, not only in the past, and find new meanings and new ways to circle that square.

CONAN: You describe this as, I think the word is ishtihad. Am I pronouncing that correctly?

Ms. COLEMAN: Yes, ishtihad, which is it's a legal process that has been within Islam for centuries, which is a process of intellectual reasoning -looking at the text and trying to work with the text to come up with answers to questions that are modern question that pertain to today and people's very real lives that they live.

CONAN: There is another school of thought, however, that what's needed to be interpreted in the Quran has been interpreted, and this is all settled by now.

Ms. COLEMAN: Indeed it is, and the book talks about the tension between these two schools, these two approaches, in effect. And you have very conservative, very narrow, traditionalist readings that prescribe a very narrow role for women in society, and you have much more progressive, open interpretations. And the book is looking at how those two different schools are interacting in today's modern world and duking it out, in effect, in countries across the Middle East.

CONAN: We want to focus, because we have a guest here who's very familiar with this work in Afghanistan, on that country, which is of course central to U.S. foreign policy right at the moment, along with Iraq and Saudi Arabia and some of the other countries you talk about. But since we have a guest from Afghanistan, let's focus there.

And we hear of an almost puritanical interpretation of Islam that informs much of the Taliban movement, which, of course, ruled Afghanistan for many years.

Ms. COLEMAN: Well, that is absolutely true. You've got a very conservative, very narrow, traditionalist perspective in Afghanistan, that prescribes the very harsh treatment of women.

I mean, the Taliban is really the worst of the worst when it comes to women. But you also have very open and modern and progressive thinkers in Afghanistan today, and unfortunately, both of these sides are really vying for position and control in that country, and women are very much on the front lines of the war that is taking place across these two sides.

CONAN: Well, let's introduce Sakena Yacoobi. She founded and directs the Afghan Institute of Learning, a nonprofit organization that provides health and education services to women and children in Afghanistan, and she joins us today here in Studio 3A in Washington. It's great to have you with us on TALK OF THE NATION.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NDTV report abut alleged honor killing of an Indian woman journalist:

At 23, Nirupama Pathak seemed to have seamlessly made the transition from her small home-town in Jharkhand to big city life. Read: Delhi journalist murdered: Honour killing?)

Supported by her parents, she arrived in Delhi to study journalism at one of the capital's premier institutes. There, she fell in love with a classmate, Priyabhanshu Ranjan. A job at one of India's best-known newspapers, the Business Standard, followed. On Facebook, she commented on political and personal issues. She was easy-going, unpretentious and helpful.

The roots that seemed to ground her rose quickly to strangle her. Nirupama was a Brahmin, her boyfriend a Kayastha. Where she came from, that was enough to stop everything.

Last week, Nirupama's family summoned her home, insisting that her mother, Sudha, was not keeping well. On Thursday night, Nirupama was found dead in her bedroom at her Jharkhand home. Her family said she had committed suicide by hanging herself. The post-mortem clearly spelled murder by asphyxiation. "There are no external injury marks on her, which means that she was probably pinned down by a few people and then smothered," said P Mohan, a surgeon in Nirupama's hometown of Koderma.

Her mother, Sudha, was arrested for her murder and sent to 14-day jail on Monday. Nirupama's father, Dharmendra, says though the family wasn't pleased with her relationship with Priyanshu, because he was from a different caste, he would never hurt his daughter. "You have to first look at your own caste, then you should look elsewhere... but we only advised her," he told NDTV, reiterating that his daughter's death was a suicide.

Riaz Haq said...

In a recently published book "Superfreakonomics", the authors highlight the following points about India:

1. If women could choose their birthplace, India might not a wise choice to be born.

2. In spite of recent economic success and euphoria about India, the people of India remain excruciatingly poor.

3. Literacy is low, corruption is high.

4. Only half the households have electricity.

5. Only one in 4 Indian homes has a toilet.

6. 40% of families with girls want to have more children, but families with boys do not want a baby girl.

7. It's especially unlucky to be born female, baby boy is like a 401 K retirement plan, baby girl requires a dowry fund.

8. Smile train Chennai did cleft repair surgery. A man was asked how many children he had. He said had 1, a boy. It turned out that he had 5 daughters which he did not mention.

9. Indian midwives paid $2.50 to kill girl with cleft deformity

10. Girls are highly undervalued, there are 35 million fewer females than males, presumed dead, killed by midwife or parent or starved to death. Unltrasound are used mainly to find and destroy female fetuses. Ultrasound and abortion are available even in the smallest villages with no electricity or clean water

11. If not aborted, baby girls face inequality and cruelty at every turn,

12. 61% of Indian men say wife beating is justified, 54% women agree, especially when dinner is burned or they leave home without husband's permission.

13. Unwanted pregnancies, STDs, HIV infections happen when 15% o the condoms fail. Indian council of med research found that 60% of Indian men's genitalia are too small by international standards.

14. Indian laws to protect women are widely ignored. The government has tried monetary rewards to keep baby girls and supported microfinance for women. NGOs programs, smaller condoms, other projects have had limited success.

15. People had little interest in State TV due to poor reception or boring programs. But cable television has helped women, as 150 million people between 2001-2006 got cable
TV which gave exposure to world.

16. American economists found that the effect of TV in 2700 households empowered women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughter in school.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by BBC's Soutik Biswas on frequent honor killings in India:

For many years, urban Indians believed such "honour killings" only happened in remote rural areas, mainly in the northern states of Haryana, Punjab and parts of Uttar Pradesh. Now, they are being reported from the capital Delhi - two couples and a girl in the past week alone. At least 26 others have been killed in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh in the past 18 months. In neighbouring Punjab, one of India's most prosperous states, police records talk about 34 "honour killings" during the past two and half years - that's one killing a month. The police admit that many more killings may go unreported.

Sociologists say the rising number of such killings point to a collision between the old and young, the orthodox and the modern, between old India, residing in its villages, and new India, thriving in its cities. They say as India becomes more urbanised, young men and women flock to its crowded cities, looking for work and love, far away from the watchful eyes of their elders and communities. They go to work, and often, fall in love, and invite retribution from their families.

So, very often, such freedom is short lived, as the boys and girls are duped into "meetings" by their families and relatives only to end up being killed brutally. The majority of the murders, police say, are carried out by the girl's family - the family's "honour", the families say, is at stake when their daughters get involved with lower caste men. The killers and their kin are frighteningly unrepentant about murdering their own. "I have no regrets," the uncle of one of the girls whom he allegedly killed recently told journalists, "I will punish them all over again if given another chance."

So what about the myth about that "honour killings" happen only in villages? In this age of globalisation, India lives with one foot in the villages, and the other in cities. Urbanisation is incomplete; there is a lot of urban-rural overlap. Entire families do not migrate to cities, and links with villages remain strong. So although there is more freedom for youngsters to work and mingle in cities, if they end up chosing partners of a lower caste, their elders and communities who live in villages can easily object. "It is a ressertion of community control over those individuals and families on which elements of democracy, capitalism and globalised economy have encroached," says Prem Chowdhry, a scholar who has investigated such killings for decades.

"Honour killings" are not merely about caste. Sociologists believe it's also about sections of the society that are intensely anti-women. In Haryana - the state with possibly the highest number of cases - more women have begun working. Expansion of women in the workforce between 1981 and 1991 was 63%; the increase of men in the workforce during the same period was 26%. Educated women, many village collective heads tell privately, are a "menace".

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the story of a cat-fight between two of Punjab's women legislators from the PPP, as published in Express Tribune:

Only 12 countries in the world have acted upon the ideological commitment to ensure women’s participation in the formal political arena, as embodied by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action. Pakistan is one of them. Under the Local Government Ordinance of 2001, 33 per cent of seats at all tiers of local government and 17 per cent in the national and provincial legislatures were reserved for women. Given the long history of discrimination against women and their exclusion from politics, this was a revolutionary step.

As a result, since elections in 2002 a record number of women have contested the polls and joined the ranks of legislators. However, concerns remained that women are powerless proxies for male relatives but women members of the PPP Punjab Assembly have put to rest any such concerns with great displays of aggression and power.

For far too long we have associated macho deep-throated growling, shouting and name calling in menacing voices with Sultan Rahi but the women MPs of Punjab are not to be left behind.

On June 14, before the budget for the province was presented, PPP MPA Sajida Mir from Lahore said that there was rampant rigging in rural areas where women were heavily influenced by feudals. She praised Iffat Liaquat of the PML-N who had won an election from Chakwal despite not having the backing of the feudal elite. Now this would sound like a fairly normal conversation to you unless you happen to be a feudal from Chakwal.

Luckily MPA Fouzia Behram, belonging to the same party as Ms Mir, was on hand to act the part (or embody the true likeness) of an enraged feudal from Chakwal. Ms Mir bellowed that MPAs from Lahore are ignorant. And in order to truly put the erring non-feudal in her place, she decided to insult her a little more by labelling her with the most derogatory word she could find in her feudal dictionary —“kammi” which means from a low caste. Ms Mir remained calm and reminded the enraged feudal that this insulted not just her but the philosophy of the party that both MPAs represent, not to mention the majority of its supporters since most of them happen to be “kammis”. This further enraged Ms Behram who then charged towards Ms Mir and tried to slap her.

Ladies, in this day and age of political crisis and misery for the entire country, couldn’t you maybe reserve your passions for topics of greater importance and substance like the budget, the state of education, healthcare or inflation? And could you please try and take the job of legislating on behalf of your constituents a little more seriously than the men who have failed us for so many years?

Riaz Haq said...

The hunger and poverty among women and children in India is much worse than in Pakistan and worse than the poorest of the poor in sub-Saharan Africa.

Here's a summary of the situation of women India by the World Hunger Project:

Executive Summary

The persistence of hunger and abject poverty in India and other parts of the world is due in large measure to the subjugation, marginalization and disempowerment of women. Women suffer from hunger and poverty in greater numbers and to a great degree then men. At the same time, it is women who bear the primary responsibility for actions needed to end hunger: education, nutrition, health and family income.

Looking through the lens of hunger and poverty, there are seven major areas of discrimination against women in India:

Malnutrition: India has exceptionally high rates of child malnutrition, because tradition in India requires that women eat last and least throughout their lives, even when pregnant and lactating. Malnourished women give birth to malnourished children, perpetuating the cycle.

Poor Health: Females receive less health care than males. Many women die in childbirth of easily prevented complications. Working conditions and environmental pollution further impairs women's health.

Lack of education: Families are far less likely to educate girls than boys, and far more likely to pull them out of school, either to help out at home or from fear of violence.

Overwork: Women work longer hours and their work is more arduous than men's, yet their work is unrecognized. Men report that "women, like children, eat and do nothing." Technological progress in agriculture has had a negative impact on women.

Unskilled: In women's primary employment sector - agriculture - extension services overlook women.

Mistreatment: In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India, in terms of rapes, assaults and dowry-related murders. Fear of violence suppresses the aspirations of all women. Female infanticide and sex-selective abortions are additional forms of violence that reflect the devaluing of females in Indian society.

Powerlessness: While women are guaranteed equality under the constitution, legal protection has little effect in the face of prevailing patriarchal traditions. Women lack power to decide who they will marry, and are often married off as children. Legal loopholes are used to deny women inheritance rights.

India has a long history of activism for women's welfare and rights, which has increasingly focused on women's economic rights. A range of government programs have been launched to increase economic opportunity for women, although there appear to be no existing programs to address the cultural and traditional discrimination against women that leads to her abject conditions.

smokin' aces said...

well you have gone lengths to describe the condition of women in india when pakistan is among the last 3 countries when it comes to women empowerment..then u gave an example about haryana..which is at the bottom of all the states when it comes to female sex ratio in india..but it no way implies that haryana is a backward state or something cuz it is one of the fastest growing states now...and in these commonwealth games most of the medals have come from haryana and amongst them many were far as pakistan is concerned it sent only one contender to participate in cwg, who didn't win any medal either..Then u raised the issue of caste ( yes it is there in some rural areas but 0% in urban areas)But pakistan being a muslim country...still it is divided on sects ie. sunni and shia..almost everyday there is a news of bombings or killings by one sect over another..on the other hand there is no such issue with indian muslims and there is not a single al qaeda terrorist identified with india...Now i dont demean pakistan but pakistan has a pretty bad image in world and rightly has failed to tackle terrorism (which has plagued the whole world but its epicenter is in pakistan), then it failed to tackle corruption (145th position), then it failed to improve women's condition (amongst last three countries). Recently an american strategist has said that pakistan is the world's most dangerous place to be..pakistan even failed to protect sri lanka's cricket team from terrorist attack which is a shame because it denied pakistan cricket in its own backyard..just imagine no international sporting or major cultural event in pakistan in near forseeable future...tourism is killed...the only tourists that would come after all kinds travel advisories being issued by all major countries, are non resident pakis..and those pakistanis wanting to go out are seen with suspicion all round the world ( especially in usa).all these things create a kind of alienation to pakistan especially during these times when the world is becoming a global village...this alienation will leave pakistan way behind in future world history...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed on Kerala women, an Indian state with the highest social indicators in India and most of the developing world:

Some 250,000 Kudumbashree women throughout Kerala have come together to form farming collectives which jointly lease land, cultivate it, use the produce to meet their consumption needs and sell the surplus to local markets. Currently, these collectives are farming on an approximate area of 25000 hectares, spread throughout the 14 districts of Kerala. The idea is to increase the participation of women in agriculture, and in particular, to ensure that women, as producers, have control over the production, distribution and consumption of food.

This strategy for involving women in agriculture comes at a very crucial time for Kerala. As in most parts of the world, vast quantities of Kerala's agricultural land has been diverted towards residential and commercial development. At the same time, fall in agricultural prices and rising wages have made farming an unprofitable activity - leading to a continuous fall in food production in the state. It is in this context that Kerala has developed its food security strategy. Unlike the standard approaches to food security; it goes beyond the question of food distribution to the realm of food production. Indeed, as global movements like the Via Campesina have been trying to assert, unless the production of food is enhanced and the real producers of food have control over the food economy, there can be no food security.

As I travelled through Kerala, it seemed to me that Kudumbasree farmers are emerging as key actors in this attempt to rejuvenate the agrarian economy. They are bringing back land for agricultural production through their collective organisation. Slowly but surely, the connections between local livelihoods, local markets and local consumption are being reinvigorated. As I travelled, my intention was not so much to ‘assess' Kudumbashree, but to understand what the experiments might mean concretely to its protagonists.

For most of the 250 women I have met so far, farming is a not new vocation. But for some, this is the first time they are working for an income. For others, this marks a very important transition from their role of an agricultural labourer. "Earlier we were just labourers. Now we have hope," says Savitri, a landless dalit woman in Palakkad district. The 'hope' that she speaks of comes from her new role as a 'producer' and farmer. Now she works for herself and her group, on the land they have collectively leased. "As a labourer, I knew there was only work, only hard labour and nothing to gain at the end," she says. In Idukki district, I met several women who have given up working as wage labourers since they have taken up farming. There is much enthusiasm for expanding their farming activity, although land remains scarce.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a recent Dawn report of international recognition of Pakistani woman scientist:

KARACHI: Pakistani Scholar Dr. Hina Siddiqui won the best “Oral Presentation Award” in the 11th Eurasia conference on Chemical Sciences. The international conference was held in Jordon from Oct.6 to Oct.10, 2010.

Dr. Siddiqui’s presentation was declared as one of the top three oral presentations in the conference, where a panel of experts decided upon the top three finalists. Another scholar from Peshawar also got prize in the event, where over 200 scientists delivered their presentations from 69 countries.

Eurasia Chemical Sciences conference was launched by three chemists in 1988 to foster network and knowledge sharing among the researchers of North and South.

Dr. Siddiqui is a PhD in organic chemistry and currently working as research officer at International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) at Karachi University.

When she was in school, she read an inspiring interview of Prof. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman from Hussain Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi, published in a well-known Urdu science magazine named Amali Science.

In that Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman said institutions are not made up from bricks and stones rather they are made up of people who have dreams and vision.

The sentence changed Siddiqui’s vision and she devoted herself to exploring the unknown. In 2005, she joined HEJ and started her Ph. D under supervision of Prof. Dr. Mohammad Iqbal Choudhary, during her Ph.D Studies she worked on the anti-oxidant properties of various chemical constituents, also she got UBF (Umear Basha Foundation) scholarship and went to University of Kansas for one year to excel in Organic synthesis research.

In the Eurasia conference, a shield and certificate was presented to Siddiqui and the organisers also waived the registration fee of upcoming 12 Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences which will be held in Greece in 2012.

Siddiqui told that it is not her prize but it is HEJ award because in HEJ every student gets a world class education and training to excel anywhere in the world.

Siddiqui said that HEJ is a great place to shine, because it is an equal opportunity institute where merit is the only criteria rather than gender discrimination. She urged the females to consider research as their career and vows to continue research and development in the future.

Mayraj said...

The End of Men
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences

Anonymous said...

World Economic Forum gender parity index is misleading because it emphasizes just one stat over all others...womens' participation in formal employment.

WEF does not adequately weigh the fact that rural women in Pakistan actively participate in farming, and they suffer much less than their Indian counterparts in terms of disease, maternal mortality, genocide of girl fetuses, underage marriages, etc.

On the UNDP's gender parity HDI sub-undex for 2010, Pakistan ranks 112, ten places ahead of India at 122

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian story of women's abuse in the name of Hindu religion in India:

Parvatamma is a devadasi, or servant of god, as shown by the red-and-white beaded necklace around her neck. Dedicated to the goddess Yellamma when she was 10 at the temple in Saundatti, southern India, she cannot marry a mortal. When she reached puberty, the devadasi tradition dictated that her virginity was sold to the highest bidder and when she had a daughter at 14 she was sent to work in the red light district in Mumbai.

Parvatamma regularly sent money home, but saw her child only a few times in the following decade. Now 26 and diagnosed with Aids, she has returned to her village, Mudhol in southern India, weak and unable to work. "We are a cursed community. Men use us and throw us away," she says. Applying talcum powder to her daughter's face and tying ribbons to her hair, she says: "I am going to die soon and then who will look after her?" The daughter of a devadasi, Parvatamma plans to dedicate her own daughter to Yellamma, a practice that is now outlawed in India.

Each January, nearly half a million people visit the small town of Saundatti for a jatre or festival, to be blessed by Yellamma, the Hindu goddess of fertility. The streets leading to the temple are lined with shops selling sacred paraphernalia – glass bangles, garlands, coconuts and heaped red and yellow kunkuma, a dye that devotees smear on their foreheads. The older women are called jogathis and are said to be intermediaries between the goddess and the people. They all start their working lives as devadasis and most of them would have been initiated at this temple.

Girls from poor families of the "untouchable", or lower, caste are "married" to Yellamma as young as four. No longer allowed to marry a mortal, they are expected to bestow their entire lives to the service of the goddess.

The devadasi system has been part of southern Indian life for many centuries. A veneer of religion covers the supply of concubines to wealthy men. Trained in classical music and dance, the devadasis lived in comfortable houses provided by a patron, usually a prominent man in the village. Their situation changed as the tradition was made illegal across India in 1988, and the temple itself has publicly distanced itself from their plight.
Chennawa, now 65 and blind, is forced to live on morsels of food given by devotees. "I was first forced to sleep with a man when I was 12," she says. "I was happy that I was with Yellamma. I supported my mother, sisters and brother. But look at my fate now." She touches her begging bowl to check if people have thrown her anything. "My mother, a devadasi herself, dedicated me to Yellamma and left me on the streets to be kicked, beaten and raped. I don't want this goddess any more, just let me die."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the Express Tribune on small increase in overall literacy led by rural female literacy:

ISLAMABAD: The quest for knowledge in rural areas, particularly in females, compensated for the declining trend of getting an education in cities, according to the Pakistan Labour Force survey.

In 2009-10 the literacy rate in Pakistan marginally increased to 57.7 per cent due to an increase in the literacy ratio of females in rural areas. During the preceding year the literacy rate was 57.4 per cent. The male literacy rate stood at 69.5 per cent while it was 45.2 per cent for females.

According to the official definition, the literacy rate is that percentage of the population ten years and above which is able to read and write in any language.

Though more than half of the rural population is illiterate, the ratio improved by over half a percentage point to 49.2 per cent by June 30, 2010 due to an increasing number of women and girls who can read and write. The female literacy ratio improved to 34.2 per cent, a progress of 0.8 per cent in a year. In rural areas, the 63.6 per cent male literacy rate improved by only 0.4 per cent in comparison. The literacy rate in urban areas marginally declined due to a dip in the number of men who qualify as literate. The urban literacy ratio decreased 0.1 per cent to 73.2 per cent, due to a fractional reduction in the male literacy rate. At present more than eight out of ten urban males are educated but the ratio is below that of 2008-09.

The provincial literacy rates also depict interesting trends. In Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the number of educated people increased, while it decreased in Sindh. The figure remained stagnant in Balochistan at 51.5 per cent. Punjab turned out to be the most educated province, followed by Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber -Pakhtunkhwa.

In Sindh the percentage of educated people dropped by one per cent to 58.2 per cent in 2009-10. The declining ratios were witnessed across the divide, rural, urban, females and males. Contrary to that in Punjab the literacy rate increased to 59.6 per cent. Over half of the rural population is literate and the urban literacy ratio stood at almost three-fourth in the province.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the literacy rate increased to 50.9 per cent, a progress of almost one per cent. The rural literacy rate increased to 48.4 per cent but the urban literacy dipped by 0.4 per cent. The urban literacy rate increased while the rural literacy rate declined.

In terms of level of education, near four out of ten literate people are not even matriculates. Another one out of ten is below intermediate, the survey reveals. Only 4.7 per cent of the total literate population has cleared intermediate but not bachelor’s and just 4.3 per cent have a bachelor’s or above. Even today over four out of ten Pakistanis are illiterate according to official figures.

Riaz Haq said...

Zahida Kazmi has been hailed as Pakistan's first female taxi driver, reports the BBC:

She has driven from the crowded markets of Islamabad to the remote tribal country in the north. Here she tells Nosheen Abbas about her two decades in a male-dominated world.

In 1992 at the age of 33, newly widowed Zahida Kazmi decided to take her fate in her own hands and become a taxi driver.

Born into a conservative and patriarchal Pakistani family, she flew in the face of her family's wishes but with six children to support, she felt she had no choice.

She took advantage of a government scheme in which anybody could buy a brand new taxi in affordable instalments. She bought herself a yellow cab and drove to Islamabad airport every morning to pick up passengers.

In a perilous and unpredictable world, Zahida at first kept a gun in the car for her own protection and she even started off by driving her passengers around wearing a burqa, a garment that covers the entire body.

Her initial fears soon dissipated.

"I realised that I would scare passengers away," she said. "So then I only wore a hijab [head covering]. Eventually I stopped covering my head because I got older and was well-established by then."

Exposing herself to the hot, bustling city streets of Islamabad and by driving to the rocky and remote districts adjoining Pakistan's tribal areas, Zahida says she learned a lot about the country she lived in and its people.

The Pathans of the tribal north-west, despite a reputation for fierce male pride and inflexibility, treated her with immense courtesy on her journeys.

Eventually she became the chairperson of Pakistan's yellow cab association. Once she was established, she offered to teach young women how to drive taxis, but there was little interest. Even her daughters didn't express enthusiasm....
"Even the policemen who stopped us at security checkpoints also knew her... we were so happy to see a woman driving a taxi."

Although Zahida has been feted for being Pakistan's first female taxi-driver, she still has many bitter memories of her struggles as a single mother working hard on the road.

Her own mother disapproved of her career choice and only resentfully accepted it when the media gave her positive coverage.

And she is estranged from her children now.

"I am old now and I get tired. It's hard for me to drive all the time but what can I do? My sons don't help," she said.

"If I had a chance I would have become a doctor."

Just as she said that to me, a passing taxi driver stopped his car and got out to reverentially greet Zahida.

Despite her travails, she is clearly a respected presence on the streets of Islamabad.

Riaz Haq said...

Two widows have been bludgeoned to death by a man in the northern Indian state of Haryana, according to a BBC report:

Police arrested a 23-year-old man, the nephew of one of the women. He was on parole, having served a sentence for rape.

Eyewitnesses told police he killed his aunt and another woman in full view of other villagers, after he accused them of being in a lesbian relationship.

Haryana is a deeply conservative and patriarchal region.

Correspondents say that so-called "honour killings" are relatively common in the area.

There have been numerous cases in rural Haryana where women - and men - defying age-old notions of tradition and family honour have been ostracised, murdered or even publicly lynched, correspondents say.

The latest killings happened late on Sunday at Ranila village.

The accused reportedly began beating one of the women, identified as 35-year-old Suman, with a wooden club after accusing her of having an "unnatural affair" with his aunt Shakuntala, eyewitnesses told the police.

A few minutes later, he dragged his aunt onto the village street and beat her to death in front of local villagers who were too scared to intervene, local journalists say.

The two bled to death as the villagers watched.

"[He] threatened other villagers not to help the widows or call for medical help," a police official said.

Police said he later told them that the women were of "loose character" and that they "deserved their fate".

He said he had killed the women to protect his "family's honour".

Riaz Haq said...

Sharia in India? BBC says young Indian couple stoned to death for having an affair:

Police in India say they have arrested eight people for stoning to death a young couple who had a love affair which met with their disapproval.

The accused include the parents of the murdered woman, who died alongside her lover. He came from a lower social group in Uttar Pradesh state.

There have been many cases in India where people have been killed for defying tradition and family honour.

Often these crimes are endorsed, or even encouraged, by village elders.

In the latest instance, police believe that Rajiv Verma and his girlfriend Renu Pal were stoned to death by a mob of about 200 people, including many of the girl's relatives.

The officer in charge of the investigation told the BBC that Renu's mother was suspected of playing a leading role in the killings.

The couple were murdered apparently because of the mob's "shame" that Renu, a student, should fall in love with her teacher, who came from a lower social group or caste.

The police said that community leaders had warned the couple to break off their relationship, but three days before their deaths, they ran off together.

Last month India's Supreme Court warned senior officials that they could be prosecuted if they failed to prevent such killings from taking place.

It said that in some cases village councils had encouraged or even ordered the deaths.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian woman gang raped and set alight in Uttar Pradeash, according to the BBC:

A woman has been gang raped and burnt alive in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, police say, the latest in a series of brutal but unrelated attacks on women there.

The woman's family says five men gang-raped her and then set her alight in her own home in Etah district.

In the past week there have been three violent attacks on women in the state.

Correspondents say Uttar Pradesh is one of India's most lawless states where women are accorded a very low status.

On Friday a 14-year-old girl was stabbed in the eye as she fought off two men who attempted to rape her.

The teenager was attacked in Gadwa Buzurg village in the Kannauj district of the northern state. She lost one eye and the other was also seriously damaged.

Police say the attackers were from her own village. Only one has been arrested so far and police said they were looking for the second man.

Two policemen in the area, who initially refused to lodge the parents' complaint, have been suspended.

Last week, a girl's body was found hanging from a tree on police premises in the Nighasan area of Lakhimpur district.

The girl's parents alleged that she was raped and murdered and that the police had offered them a bribe to keep quiet.

In the latest incident the woman, who was in her thirties, was sitting outside her home when five men dragged her inside the house and gang-raped her, according to her family.

Her family say the attackers sprinkled kerosene on her and set her on fire because the woman had recognised them and they were afraid of being caught.

The woman managed to give a statement to police but died shortly afterwards.

Police say they are are still looking for the attackers.

Earlier this year, the head of the National Commission for Women, Girija Vyas, said Uttar Pradesh was at the top of the list when it came to violent crimes against women.

State authorities have been criticised in recent years after several attacks on women and girls were reported.

Riaz Haq said...

Americans, too, prefer boys over girls, according to a new Gallup poll:

A new survey has found that almost half of people would prefer to have a baby boy than a baby girl.

48 per cent of respondents admitted they wanted a son more than they wanted a daughter.

By contrast, just 28 per cent said they would rather have a girl, while 26 per cent said they would be content with either sex. The remaining people polled either had no opinion or didn't know what they wanted.

Gallup, which interviewed over 1,000 people across the U.S. for its research, revealed that Americans' preference for a male child today is even stronger that it was in 1941, when just 38 per cent wanted a boy more.

It said that the same poll 70 years ago found that just 38 per cent of people wanted a son more than a daughter,with 24 per cent stating preference for a baby girl.

The organisation found that the age, sex and education levels of respondents all made a difference in what the response was likely to be.

Fifty-four percent of people under 30 said that they would prefer a male child, but those with a university education showed equal results for both sexes.

Its report read: 'It is significant that 18- to 29-year-old Americans are the most likely of any age group to express a preference for a boy because most babies are born to younger adults.

'The impact of the differences between men and women in preferences for the sex of their babies is also potentially important. The data from the U.S. suggest that if it were up to mothers to decide the gender of their children, there would be no tilt toward boys.'

Even political stance made a difference. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to state preference for a male child.

Gallup said that the trend was 'driven partly by the fact that American men are more likely to be Republicans and women are more likely to identify as Democrats.'

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Girls being surgically changed into boys, reports Hindustan Times

Girls are being 'converted' into boys in Indore - by the hundreds every year - at ages where they cannot give their consent for this life-changing operation.
This shocking, unprecedented trend, catering to the fetish for a son, is unfolding at conservative Indore's well-known clinics and hospitals on children who are 1-5 years old. The process being used to 'produce' a male child from a female is known as genitoplasty. Each surgery costs Rs 1.5 lakh.

Moreover, these children are pumped with hormonal treatment as part of the sex change procedure that may be irreversible.

The low cost of surgery and the relatively easy and unobtrusive way of getting it done in this city attracts parents from Delhi and Mumbai to get their child surgically 'corrected'.

About 7-8% cases come from the metros, say doctors.

While genitoplasty is relatively common - it is used to correct genital abnormality in fully-grown patients - the procedure is allegedly being misused rampantly to promise parents a male child even though they have a female child.

The parents press for these surgeries despite being told by doctors that the 'converted' male would be infertile.

While genitoplasty experts of Indore say each of them have turned 200 to 300 girls into 'boys' so far, only one could cite an instance when a 14-year-old was converted into a girl. ...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an OXFAM report about land for landless peasant women in Pakistan:

Oxfam Media Officer, Caroline Gluck, is currently travelling in Sindh district in Pakistan. She sends us this blog from there:

Mother of five, Sodhi Solangi, can’t stop smiling as she shows me her new eight acre plot of land. Cotton crops are growing and, a little further away, building work is almost finished on a large new house overlooking the fields where her family will soon settle.

Just a few years ago, 42 year old Sodhi, who lives in Ramzan Village, Umerkot district, in Sindh, Pakistan, was landless. She and her husband used to work on others’ lands, earning a share of the crops as payment. Daily life was a struggle.

“We often had problems”, Sodhi recalled. “Sometimes we had money, sometimes not. It was very hard for us. We’d spend all our days working on someone else’s farm and our children would be at home.

“We wore torn clothes. But now things are very different. When you like something, you can go out and buy it. Before, we would have to ask the landlord to give us money if we wanted anything, but now we have money in our hands and we can buy things whenever we want.”

“Now we have our own land and are working on our own land. It feels so good when we work there. When we used to work for others, we would have to drag ourselves there.”

Her family’s luck changed when Sodhi was awarded eight acres of land, under a programme run by Sindh’s provincial government, which in 2008 began redistributing swathes of state-held land to landless women peasants. The landmark scheme was an attempt to lift more people out of poverty in the province, where more than two-thirds of the population work the land, but where bonded labour is still widely practiced and most land is still held by wealthy and political influential elites.

Sohdi and her family grew wheat and cotton on their new land. And they managed to earn enough profit to buy another eight acres.

“We were so happy when we go our land. Now, things are so different”, said Sodhi. “Whenever we want to eat anything, we can just buy it. Before, we used to eat dal and potatoes. Now we can buy all sorts of things – mangos, even chicken.”

“Everyday, we have a lot of food. It’s like a festival of food for us every time!” she said, laughing.

Meat is an unaffordable luxury for most poor farming families – and one telling sign of just how much Sodhi’s life has turned around.

Her neighbours and relatives jokingly call her “lady landowner” and many told me they planned to apply for land during the next phase of the redistribution scheme.

But Sodhi is one of the lucky ones. Her land, though parched and lacking proper irrigation, is still cultivable; and, unlike many women, Sodhi didn’t face legal claims disputing her right to the land from wealthy landowners or others living nearby.
“The landlord sent officials to threaten the women here saying : ‘We will destroy your homes and take your tractors. ‘ He also threatened to send the police to our home”, said Shareefa Gulfazar, who is in her fifties, and was awarded 4.5 acres of land.

Her daughter, Dadli Kehar, who was awarded 3 acres of land, fears they are being tricked out of what is rightfully theirs. With the help of Oxfam’s partner Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI), both women plan to fight through the courts for what they believe is their right to the land.
Despite the threats and the likelihood of a lengthy legal battle, Shareefa and Dadli intend to fight for their land. They know that having their own land can empower them as well as help to feed their families and ensure they have a better future.

Riaz Haq said...

USAID has launched a "Women In Trade" initiative in Pakistan, according to Business Recorder:

ISLAMABAD: In conjunction with several multinational firms, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is launching the Women in Trade Initiative to increase the participation of Pakistani women in the international trade sector.

“This initiative is part of the United States’ commitment to the people of Pakistan to support women’s empowerment,” said Dr. Marilyn Wyatt, wife of US Ambassador Cameron Munter, at the launch of the Women in Trade Initiative, says a press release received here on Tuesday.

“By raising the role of women in the international trade sector, we can enable them to contribute not only to Pakistan’s economy, but to the overall development of the country.”

Under this initiative, USAID has arranged three-month internships for 17 female university graduates with well-known companies such as TARGET Sourcing Services Pakistan, TEXLYNX, NISHAT Group, and Li & Fung Pakistan.

These women will gain skills in sourcing and marketing of products, product development and diversification and supply chain management.

The international trade sector in Pakistan currently employs very few women in managerial positions.

A recent USAID-funded study has shown women comprise less than 10 percent of management and 20 percent of junior staff in trade companies.

The Women in Trade initiative will work to set up linkages between international firms and local universities so that more women have opportunities to explore careers in international trade.

The USAID-funded initiative will also help companies select the best-suited male and female university graduates for training and potential future recruitment.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's youthful female foreign minister Mrs. Hina Rabbani Khar stands in sharp contrast to her counterpart senile old FM SM Krishna of India who couldn't tell the difference between his and Portuguese FM's speech at a recent UN meeting.

Here's a Telegraph report on Pakistan's first female foreign minister:

Khar was sworn in on Tuesday and immediately faces a stiff test of all her negotiating skills. Next week she will travel to New Delhi in the latest round of turbulent talks over the future of Kashmir.

President Asif Zardari said her promotion from junior minister to the cabinet was a tribute to her skills.

"The elevation will also send positive signals about the soft image of Pakistan," he added.

But her promotion is not without risks.

A picture of the young mother-of-two wearing a tight pair of blue jeans published in local newspapers raised eyebrows in a country where most women are expected to wear loose clothing that hides their curves.

Yet she is one of a number of rising women politicians in Pakistan – a country where women's rights are so neglected that only 41% of girls complete primary education – following in the footsteps of Benazir Bhutto, who became the country's first female prime minister, at the age of 35.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excepts from a recent Businessweek story titled "On the job in Pakistan: Women":

When Naz Khan became Pakistan’s first female money-market trader 19 years ago, KASB Securities, the Merrill Lynch (BAC) affiliate that had hired her, needed to build a women’s restroom in its Karachi office. By the time Khan left last year to become chief financial officer at Engro Fertilizer, KASB had so many women on staff that “we had to get in line” to use the restroom, she says.
More of them than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s (MCD) to running major corporations. About 22 percent of Pakistani females over the age of 10 now work, up from 14 percent a decade ago, government statistics show. Women now hold 78 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, and in July, Hina Rabbani Khar, 34, became Pakistan’s first female Foreign Minister. “The cultural norms regarding women in the workplace have changed,” says Maheen Rahman, 34, chief executive officer at IGI Funds, which manages some $400 million in assets. Rahman says she plans to keep recruiting more women for her company.

Much of the progress has come because women stay in school longer. More than 42 percent of Pakistan’s 2.6 million high school students last year were girls, up from 30 percent 18 years ago. Women made up about 22 percent of the 68,000 students in Pakistani universities in 1993; today, 47 percent of Pakistan’s 1.1 million university students are women, according to the Higher Education Commission. Half of all MBA graduates hired by Habib Bank, Pakistan’s largest lender, are now women. “Parents are realizing how much better a lifestyle a family can have if girls work,” says Sima Kamil, 54, who oversees 1,400 branches as head of retail banking at Habib. “Every branch I visit has one or two girls from conservative backgrounds,” she says.

There’s still a long way to go. The employment rate for men is triple that for women, and Pakistan’s female literacy rate is just 45 percent, vs. 70 percent for men. In agriculture, where women account for three-fourths of all workers, female laborers such as cotton and chili pickers earn less than 50¢ a day. In the informal manufacturing sector—companies that make, say, blouses, bedsheets, or soccer balls—women make up 57 percent of the workforce, but they spend more hours on the job and receive lower pay than their male counterparts, according to the Pakistan Institute of Labour and Economic Research. In 2009, the agency says, women in light manufacturing earned an average of 2,912 rupees ($34) monthly, about 40 percent of the average earnings for men.
Some companies believe hiring women gives them a competitive advantage. Habib Bank says adding female tellers has helped improve customer service at the formerly state-owned lender because the men on staff don’t want to appear rude in front of women. And makers of household products say female staffers help them better understand the needs of their customers. “The buyers for almost all our product ranges are women,” says Fariyha Subhani, 46, CEO of Unilever Pakistan Foods, where 106 of the 872 employees are women. “Having women selling those products makes sense because they themselves are the consumers,” she says.

To attract more women, Unilever last year offered some employees the option to work from home, and the company has run an on-site day-care center since 2003. Engro, which has 100 women in management positions, last year introduced flexible working hours, a day-care center, and a support group where female employees can discuss challenges they encounter. “Today there is more of a focus at companies on diversity,” says Engro Fertilizer CFO Khan, 42. The next step, she says, is ensuring that “more women can reach senior management levels.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Newsweek Pakistan cover story about "100 Women Who Shake Pakistan":

They make up almost half of Pakistan's population of 180 million, but are rarely given the space and coverage they deserve. From Fatima Jinnah to Rana Liaquat Ali Khan to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan has produced some very remarkable women. Today, they are bankers, businesswomen, activists, artists, sport stars. From a pool of almost 350 women, here's our list of the 100 women who matter most.

Riaz Haq said...

While Fareed Zakaria, Nick Kristoff and other talking heads are still stuck on the old stereotypes of Muslim women, the status of women in Muslim societies is rapidly changing, and there is a silent social revolution taking place with rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up the corporate ladder in Pakistan.

"More of them(women) than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s to running major corporations", says a report in the latest edition of Businessweek magazine.

Beyond company or government employment, there are a number of NGOs focused on encouraging self-employment and entrepreneurship among Pakistani women by offering skills training and microfinancing. Kashf Foundation led by a woman CEO and BRAC are among such NGOs. They all report that the success and repayment rate among female borrowers is significantly higher than among male borrowers.

In rural Sindh, the PPP-led government is empowering women by granting over 212,864 acres of government-owned agriculture land to landless peasants in the province. Over half of the farm land being given is prime nehri (land irrigated by canals) farm land, and the rest being barani or rain-dependent. About 70 percent of the 5,800 beneficiaries of this gift are women. Other provincial governments, especially the Punjab government have also announced land allotment for women, for which initial surveys are underway, according to ActionAid Pakistan.

Both the public and private sectors are recruiting women in Pakistan's workplaces ranging from Pakistani military, civil service, schools, hospitals, media, advertising, retail, fashion industry, publicly traded companies, banks, technology companies, multinational corporations and NGOs, etc.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a sad story by blogger Amna of how the elderly in Pakistan are being abandoned at places like Edhi Center:

Her name is Dr. Bibi Qureshi and she was abandoned by her family and left at Edhi shelter for women in Karachi at the age she needs family the most. She appears to be around 80 years old. Although each woman had a heartbreaking story to tell, that of Dr. Bibi Qureshi was especially compelling because in spite of the fact that she’s more well-educated than many people I know, she ended up destitute and abandoned after a lifetime of hard work and accomplishments. After being educated in Aligarh University, her family left India and traveled to Pakistan due to political unrest. She was an activist for women in Balochistan, going door to door to form an all women’s league (really wish I had a clip of the interview to remember the exact name of the organization she is responsible for founding). I can’t even imagine a time when it was safe for an activist to go door to door in Balochistan, much less a woman. She was a feminist before most of us were even born, long before that became a buzzword. She taught in Government College for Women in Pindi for eight years before traveling to London to pursue a PhD. from London School of Economics.

When asked why she never married, she replied that she chose to pursue an education instead. (In this society, if you don’t get married by 24, you’re considered an old maid by 25, at which point people start questioning if there’s something “wrong” with you. Around 30, the proposals pretty much just stop.)

I lived a full life, she said, but I ended up here because I mismanaged my money. I gave it to family, to my brother, to my nephews, to charities and to the poor. Now I have nothing and my brother left me here. Yet she is still grateful, she said, for having a clean bed to sleep in, clothes to wear and food to eat.

When asked if she thought she wouldn’t be in this state had she married and had children, she replied that most of the women in the shelter had children but none willing to house them or care for them. The abandoned woman in the bed next to her had 5 daughters and 2 sons. “It’s a strange world,” she said, shrugging her shoulders in defeat. Who knows what would have happened. If I had children, I may have ended up somewhere else. I may have still ended up here. People come here and ask for interviews, then they leave and everything stays the same. (At which point the pancake-makeup-ed show host made an awkwardface and got up and left to interview someone else.)

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about a Lancet study of Pakistan's "Ladies Health Workers" treating child pneumonia:

LONDON, 14 November 2011 (IRIN) - Pakistan’s army of “Lady Health Workers” – some 90,000 strong – was never meant to diagnose and treat serious illnesses. Instead, these female community health workers (in Pakistan, men cannot visit families) were expected to teach good hygiene and nutrition, provide family planning advice, monitor pregnant women, weigh and vaccinate babies and treat minor ailments.

Yet a new study shows that these same women could hold the key to treating pneumonia – the world’s leading killer of young children.

The study, published by The Lancet medical journal and conducted by Save the Children US, funded by the US Agency for International Development and coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), found that children suffering from severe pneumonia were more likely to recover if treated at home by these women rather than in a health facility.
Sadruddin and his colleagues in Pakistan decided to see whether treatment could be given at home by the local Lady Health Worker. They ran a pilot project in Haripur district, in the south of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. Where the health workers identified severe pneumonia, with fever, rapid breathing and in-drawing of the lower chest, they were to give a full course of the WHO recommended antibiotic, liquid amoxicillin. “We wanted to see if they could do as well as conventional in-patient treatment. In fact, we found that they did better.”

The study followed 3,211 children, whose progress was checked six days after the start of treatment. Among those treated by their local health worker, only 9 percent failed to respond to treatment. In the control group, 18 percent failed to respond. The children visited at home started treatment sooner, and were sure to get the most suitable drug, while prescriptions in government and private clinics were far less consistent.

The Lady Health Workers taking part in the trial were carefully supervised. “These workers cannot just be left unsupervised after their training,” Sadruddin told IRIN. “They need ongoing support from their supervisors to attain their goals.”

The message was reinforced by the Elizabeth Mason, director of WHO’s Department for Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health.

“Supervision is absolutely critical, and it is one area that programmes have to ensure that they have well in place,” she told IRIN.

But she said WHO was extremely interested in the findings. “This is the kind of breakthrough research which is urgently needed. It is the first study of its kind and we will have to put it together with studies from other places. But I hope we may be able to review our guidelines to make treatment more accessible to poorer children and those living in remote communities, the ones who need it most.”

The programme also brought benefits to the women, elevating their status. In Haripur, when people saw that the women could treat seriously ill children and save their lives, their status rose dramatically, according to Sadruddin. By the end of the two-year trial, families were far more likely to make the Lady Health Worker their first port of call when their children were ill.

“When they started,” said Sadruddin, “the women themselves were not confident of their own abilities, and the community was also not confident. But when we went back, we found [so] much respect for the Lady Health Workers.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about Emmy award winning Pakistani documentary producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy:

“We’re all storytellers,” says documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who knows how to make the most of people's storytelling abilities. A recent film about children groomed by the Taliban to become suicide bombers won her an Emmy award, making her the first Pakistani woman to get television's highest accolade. And her most recent film, Saving Face, about Pakistani women who've survived acid attacks is on the Oscar nomination shortlist.
She's the brains behind the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a database that collects stories from people across the country. “Our goal is to create a repository. We want to make a space to record how the nation has changed over the past years. And currently CAP is the only organization that is recording the personal stories of people,” she says.

Obaid-Chinoy feels that history is in danger of being wiped from her country's collective memory because politics is re-writing the national narrative. "Many children today are barely aware of what happened during the 1971 war," she says. "The defeat of the Pakistani army which led to the creation of Bangladesh is something the government is eager to forget. But CAP found enough people willing to talk about their personal experiences of the war."

The organisation's website offers a chance to browse - for no charge - through an extraordinary collection of videos. Each one is one person's story; their memories of a specific time in history.

It's a simple idea, but a powerful one. Obaid-Chinoy says it’s critical to record the stories because

“Pakistan has been extremely bad at recording its own history properly. Every new government has tried to erase the previous rulers from history. What is left in museums and school textbooks is propaganda from the latest government.”

Bringing the stories to the people
The spirit of the project however is not just to make a preserved video archive for historians.

“We’re also bringing our archive to the people. In Pakistan, information is a privilege of the wealthy, unfortunately. If you have money you can afford education and become more aware of the world around you. The CAP wants to change this,” explains Obaid-Chinoy.

And one of the ways its doing this is through their School Outreach Tour, a program sends a mobile archive of videos, photographs, and newspapers to schools around the country. The aim is to teach children more about Pakistan’s rich history and make them feel proud of it again.

“Part of the reason why Pakistan is in the shape it is in today is because it’s hard for young people to believe in the possibilities of their country. They don’t understand what the idea was behind the creation of this nation. They know so little about Pakistan’s good years,” Says Sharmeen.
“They like telling people about the dreams they had back then. But Partition came with traumas as well. Many people left their homes to follow that dream. It was the turning point in their lives, but the moment itself was filled with hope.”

And hope is something that has been in short supply in Pakistan in recent years. The country has paid a high price for the US-led war on terror. As the forces of extremism, violence and western manipulation pull the nation in different directions, it could well be Obaid-Chinoy's story bank that may end up being definitive repository of Pakistan's soul.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Benazir Income Support program in Pakistan:

Clutching photocopied ID cards in bony fingers, a roomful of Pakistan's poorest women sit on gray plastic chairs and wait in silence for something many have never experienced: a little bit of help from the government.

It comes in the form of a debit card that is topped up with the equivalent of $30 every three months, enough to put an extra daily meal on the table, buy a school uniform or pay for medical treatment in a country where soaring food and fuel costs are hurting millions who already live hand-to-mouth.

The program is something of a success story for a government widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, as well as for international donors that help implement and fund it. But the very need for the scheme highlights the poverty stalking a country whose stability is seen as key to the fight against Islamist extremism.

Other cash-transfer programs in Pakistan have been plagued by graft and allegations that only supporters of the party in power received the funds. Many feared this program, named after Benazir Bhutto, the late wife of President Asif Ali Zardari, would go the same way.

But that hasn't happened, at least not significantly. The Benazir Income Support Programme is modeled on similar efforts in Africa and South America, part of a quiet revolution in the way countries and development agencies are helping the poor. Initial concerns that recipients would fritter away the money have proven unfounded, and giving cash is now accepted as a vital and cost-effective aid tool.

"I spend the money on my kids, what else would I do?" said Rifat Parveen, a mother of five who sometimes has to serve only bread and boiled chili peppers for the evening meal. "Even if a poor person gets 10 rupees (5 cents), he or she will be grateful."

When a woman is called, she goes to a room where her identity is checked against an electronic database and her thumb print taken electronically. A bank employee then gives her the card — and a crash course in how to use it — before she returns to her village.

As they do elsewhere in the world, women in Pakistan must receive the money on behalf of their families because research shows they spend it more responsibly than men do. They must also first obtain a valid identity card to be eligible. Both requirements have been credited with pushing women, discriminated against in Pakistan, a little into the mainstream.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a special CNN report on a Pakistani village by Wajahat Ali:

This is a story affecting millions of Pakistanis — and it does not involve suicide bombings, honor killings, extremism or President Zardari's mustache.

"What would you like to be when you grow up?" I asked Sakafat, a boisterous 12-year-old girl, while visiting a remote Pakistani village in the Sindh province.

"A scientist!" she immediately replied. "Why can't we be scientists? Why not us?"

The confident Sakafat lives in Abdul Qadir Lashari village, which is home to 500 people in Mirpur Sakro. It is in one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan.

There was a characteristic resilience and optimism in this particular village. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Pakistan's often dysfunctional, surreal yet endearing daily existence.

The 500 villagers live in 48 small huts, except for the one "wealthy" family who recently built a home made of concrete. The village chief, Abdul Qadir Lashari, proudly showed off his village's brand-new community toilets, paved roads, and water pump that brings fresh water to the village.

These simple, critical amenities, taken for granted by most of us in the West, resulted from the direct assistance of the Rural Support Programmes Network, Pakistan's largest nongovernmental organization. RSPN has worked with thousands of similar Pakistani villages to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

I visited the Sindh village with RSPN to witness the results of using community organizing to alleviate poverty. The staff told me its goal was to teach villagers to "fish for themselves."

Every household in the Abdul Qadir Lashari village was able to reach a profit by the end of 2011 as a result of professional skills training, financial management, community leadership workshops and microloans.

Specifically, a middle-aged, illiterate woman proudly told me how she learned sewing and financial management and was thus able to increase her household revenue, manage her bills, and use a small profit to purchase an extra cow for the family. She was excited to introduce me to her cow, but sadly due to lack of time I was unable to make the bovine acquaintance.
Asked what single thing she felt was most important most for her village, she replied education. Upon asking another elderly lady what she wishes for Pakistan, she repeated one word three times: "sukoon," which means peace.

When it was time to depart, the people of the village presented me with a beautiful handmade Sindhi shawl, an example of the craftwork the villagers are now able to sell for profit.

As I left the village with the dark red, traditional Sindhi shawl adorned around my neck, my thoughts returned to the 12-year-old girl, Sakafat, who passionately asked why she couldn't become a scientist.

I looked in her eyes and could only respond with the following: "You're right. You can be anything you want to be. And I have every confidence you will, inshallah ("God willing"), reach your manzil ("desired destination").

By focusing on education and local empowerment to lift the next generation out of poverty, Sakafat's dream could indeed one day become a reality for all of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ESPN report on Pakistani women cricketers receiving central contracts from PCB:

The PCB has awarded central contracts to 17 women cricketers for the year 2012, reducing the number of signings from last year's pool of 19. Mariam Hassan Shah, Sania Iqbal Khan and Asmavia Iqbal are the new players to earn the 12-month contract for the first time while 2011 contract holders Kainat Imtiaz, Faryal Awan, Areeb Shamaim and Masooma Junaid have missed out this year.

Seam bowler Qanita Jalil, who was in category B last year, has been promoted to category A, while Sania Iqbal, who missed out on a contract last year after sustaining an injury during the Asian Games, was included in category C.

Elizebath Khan and Masooma Junaid, who have been
 selected for the upcoming tour of Ireland and England, are the two notable exclusions from the list.

Pakistan's next assignment starts from August 18 in Ireland, where the women cricketers will participate in a tri-nation series involving the hosts and Bangladesh. The team, thereafter, will play 7 Twenty20 matches in England against various teams (including England women, England Under-19 women and West Indies women).

"We have picked up the best possible 17 women cricketers for the contracts," Ayesha Ashar, PCB women wing's manager, told ESPNcricinfo. "Those who are left out shouldn't be discouraged and should try to win back the top contact by performing well. Contracts are meant to reward players who are consistent and contributing significantly at domestic and internationally."

The PCB in 2011, initiated an unprecedented move to sign women cricketers, giving an opportunity to the women to play full-time cricket in a bid to boost the national team's performance at major tournaments.

The list of players awarded contracts:

Category A: Sana Mir, Javeria Wadood, Nain Abidi, Bismah Maroof, Qanita Jalil, Sadia Yousaf

Category B: Nida Dar, Asmavia Iqbal, Marina Iqbal, Batool Fatima, Rabiya Shah

Category C: Mariam Hassan Shah, Sana Gulzar, Sidra Ameen, Sania Iqbal Khan, Nahida Khan, Namra Imran

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BR on Darawt dam to help Jamshoro farmers, including land for landless women farmers:

Divisional Commissioner Hyderabad Ahmed Bux Narejo has directed the executing authorities of Darawat Dam project to keep their ongoing works continue as per their schedule and assured that the matter for land acquisition pertaining to development works of project would be resolved very soon on priority basis.

He also directed the Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro and Deputy Commissioner Thatta to conduct the survey of the land coming in the utilisation of Dam, ascertain its status, whether it was private or government land and also identified that it has been processed for section 4 or not. This he said while presiding over a meeting regarding allotment of land to the management of Darawat Dam held at his main office today. Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro Agha Sohail, Deputy Commissioner Thatta Mohammad Nawaz Sohu, Project Director of the project Gul Mohammad Junejo, Iqbal Shaikh from Wapda attended the meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Ahmed Bux Narejo said that President Asif Ali Zardari was taking keen interest in the early implementation of the project. He said that this project to conserve 1,21,000 acre ft of flood water from its catchments area Nai Baran scattered over 3150 square KM and to irrigate 25,000 acre of district Thatta. He said that this Dam to bring Socio-Economic upliftment of remoted areas of Sindh and to pave the way for irrigation, fisheries development, women emancipation, provision of water for domestic and drinking purpose, providing employment and recreational facilities as well. He said that during the first phase, 100 women landless Haries have been identified by Revenue Department and National Rural Support Programme jointly and added that each to be allotted up to 25 acres of land after completing all formalities as per revised land grant policy of the PPP government.

The Project Director Gul Mohammad Junejo while briefing to the meeting said that the reservoir area of the project falls in Jamshoro district, where as its command area falls in Thatta district. He said that this Dam located across Nai Baran near Jhangri Village in Jamshoro District, 70 KM west of Hyderabad. He said that the Dam has source of water from Hill torrential scattered over the area of 3150 square Kilo meters in lower Kherthar range. He said that now the executing works by the Chinese company Sinohydro-MAJ (JV) involve in this task heading toward reservoir and its command areas where some problems of land acquisition have been arisen. He said that the work on this project was going at full swing.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an Express Tribune story on rise in Pakistani women in workplace:

according to the 2011 Pakistan Employment Trends Report, compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, female labour force participation has jumped from 16.3% in 2000 to 24.4% in 2011. That jump represents an extra seven million women in the work force.

So who are these women? There is very little specific research on the profiles of women who have entered the workforce, but the 2012 Economic Survey of Pakistan, issued by the federal finance ministry, states that a major proportion of the rise appears to be taking place in urban areas. The government does not break down employment data by specific sectors or levels, but it appears – at least from anecdotal evidence – that women are entering the workforce, to varying degrees, at most levels and virtually all sectors.

Their reasons for joining the workforce have also not been documented in detail, but there are at least a few statistics that provide hints about their motivations. Education levels appear to be rising across the board, and fertility rates are hitting an all-time low virtually every year. Pakistani women are better educated and are less burdened with child-care than at any time in history (much more than men, but less than their predecessors a generation ago.)

Another factor appears to be need: according to The Express Tribune’s analysis of data provided by the Household Integrated Economic Survey, the bottom 20% of households in Pakistan have not seen their incomes keep pace with inflation. Many patriarchal households have had to abandon their traditionalist strictures against women working outside the home and let their female relatives work to bring in more income.

Seven million women is not a number to be trifled with: while women have yet to crack the glass ceiling in Pakistan (representation at senior levels of management remains shamefully low), they are beginning to gain increasing economic clout. And this increased clout is changing the way business is done in Pakistan, largely by making it more inclusive than it used to be.

Many companies, for instance, have caught on to the idea that female customers have money to spend, but may not necessarily be comfortable speaking to male salespersons, regardless of how friendly or courteous they may be. That, in turn, has led to the rise in hiring of female staff members, creating stable corporate-style employment opportunities for blue-collar women. The rising spending power of upper-middle class women is helping their lower-middle and working class sisters get jobs.

It is also perhaps not a coincidence that the first Pakistani law against sexual harassment in the workplace was passed in 2011. Perhaps politicians now feel that urban women are an increasingly important electoral constituency.

And the rise in female consumers has also given birth to a new breed of female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. This is a game being played not just by the daughters of rich businessmen, but also by more working class women, aided by government efforts like the incubation centres set up by the Punjab government in Lahore, and the state-owned First Women’s Bank providing lending facilities.

Riaz Haq said...

63% of students entering medical colleges in Punjab are female this year, reports Dawn:

LAHORE, Dec 2: Female students have again considerably outnumbered the male in the fresh admissions to the public sector medical colleges of Punjab for the session 2012-13, it is learnt.

According to the data available with Dawn, out of total 2,942 students who secured admissions on open merit seats for the session 2012-13 at the public sector medical institutions of the province, 63.3 per cent were female while 36.7 per cent male, showing a visible gender-wise difference.

The data was compiled by the admission section of the University of Health Sciences under ‘MBBS Admission Statistics 2012-13’.

The figures showed continuity of the trend being witnessed for the last many years that the medical profession had become preferred choice for females as compared to the male students.

A senior official of the varsity said the girls’ considerably larger share in the admissions to the state-run medical institutions was one of the factors behind shortage of doctors at the government hospitals.

Explaining the dynamics of this situation, he said, “Only 10 per cent of the female students admitted to various state-run medical institutions joined the medical profession after securing their MBBS degrees while the rest either left before or after completing the house job”.

This showed that in majority of the cases medical degree was considered just a means to secure a better groom for the girls having such qualification, he said, adding the practice had flourished to the extent that a coinage, ‘medical marriage’ was being used for it.


According to the data, Lahore was at the top among the districts from where a majority of female students got admissions to the state-run medical institutions as out of total 627 admissions, 452 were of females while only 175 were male.

Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala were other major districts from where a majority of female students appeared and got admissions to various medical colleges of the province. According to the statistics, of 250 students admitted from Faisalabad, 158 were female and 92 male. Similarly, of 230 admitted medical students, 139 were female and 91 male from Multan and out of total 146 students, 102 female and 44 male belonged to Gujranwala.

Even in the backward districts like Bhakar, Layyah, Bahawalnagar where higher education was considered a low priority for girls, the number of female medical students was higher than that of the male.

Area-wise distribution of candidates admitted from central Punjab showed that out of total 1,839 students who got admissions to government medical institutions, 1,215 were female and only 624 were male.

Similarly, area-wise distribution of candidates admitted from southern Punjab showed that 506 female and 430 male students got admissions to various medical institutions out of the total 936.

The situation was not different in northern Punjab from where 167 students got admitted as 140 of them were female and only 27 were male.

According to college-wise gender distribution, Rawalpindi Medical College (RMC) is at the top among other institutions, admitting 202 girls out of 299 total admissions. The other prominent medical institutions which admitted majority of female students include the Punjab Medical College (Faisalabad) 184 female, 104 male, Allama Iqbal Medical College (Lahore)170 female, 132 male, Quaid-i-Azam Medical College (Bahawalpur)168 female, 106 male and King Edward Medical University admitted 167 female and 136 male students.

This difference could also be witnessed at the newly-established Gujranwala Medical College which admitted 81 girl students and only 19 boys out of total 100 admissions this year.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP story about love online in Pakistani town of Muzaffargarh:

MUZAFFARABAD: Sania was just a schoolgirl when she logged onto an Internet chat room and met a young college student called Mohammad. They fell in love and decided to get married.

Internet dating in the West is now so common that it is no longer considered an act of shameful desperation but an acceptable way for busy professionals to discover a like-minded partner.

But for Sania, the 22-year-old daughter of a conservative truck driver in Pakistan, online romance and her subsequent marriage has meant repeated beatings and death threats at the hands of her relatives.

“No one gets married outside our community. It is our tradition,” Sania told AFP. She is from the garrison city of Rawalpindi and Mohammad comes from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

At first she and Mohammad chatted online. Then they both bought mobiles to continue their relationship by telephone. For several years they asked their parents for permission to marry, but were refused.

So Sania decided to escape.

She packed a bag and sneaked out while her brother was at school, her mother sleeping and her father out at work. She took the bus straight to Muzaffarabad.

“I spent the four-hour journey in fear. I kept thinking that if my family caught me, they’d kill me,” she told AFP.

In Muzaffarabad, Mohammad met her off the bus and they got married immediately. But while his family quickly accepted Sania, nearly two years later the couple still live in fear of her relatives.

Twice they have dragged her back to Rawalpindi since her marriage and have demanded repeatedly that she break off relations with Mohammad.

“Last time they took me back three months ago and put lot of pressure on me to break off this relationship. I got in contact with my husband and asked him to fetch me. I escaped from the house at midnight and we managed to flee,” she said.

Now Sania and her 24-year-old husband have moved to a new one-room house in a slum, changed their phone number and dare not venture out of the city.

“They say they will kill us whenever they find us,” Sania says.

Women in Pakistan who marry against the wishes of their parents are ostracised or even killed by male relatives for supposedly bringing dishonour on the family.

But online relationships are a new phenomenon.


Mohammad Zaman, professor of sociology at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, who has written a book about marriage, says arranged unions that have dominated for centuries are on the wane.

“Internet marriage is a new trend emerging in Pakistan. Technological advancement has entered into our homes and traditional taboos are slowly vanishing in educated and affluent families,” Zaman told AFP.

Online, they can share personal information and swap photographs — things that would be restricted or prohibited in the traditional selection of partners.

The Internet is changing mindsets, giving young people freedom and privacy, and a forum to discuss matters frowned upon by Pakistan’s traditional, conservative society.

“There is a kind of emancipation in society and young people want their say in the selection of their future partner,” Zaman said, although he conceded that parents find it easier to accept a son’s choice than that of a daughter.

Tahir, a Pakistani peace activist, knows only too well how the freedom of the Internet can collide with the restrictions of everyday life — not only conservative sensibilities but politics and war.

The 26-year-old fell for university student Nazia on Facebook and Skype.

All fine and good, except that Nazia lives on the other side of one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world — that which divides the Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.


Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of news stories ad stats of rape in South Asia:

1. India Tribune:

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India’s major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.

•South Africa – It has one of the highest rates, with 277,000 reported cases. The same year a survey by the Medical Research Council found that one in four men admitted to raping someone.

•United States – More than 89,241 rape cases were reported. Criminals face life behind bars, and in some states, castration is an option.

•India – Reported a little more than 21,397 cases.

•United Kingdom – 15,084 cases were reported. A suspect found guilty, faces a maximum conviction of life in prison.

•Mexico – Nearly 14,078 cases were reported. In some parts of the country, penalties may consist of a few hours in jail, or minor fines.

•Germany – Counts the highest number of reported rape cases in Europe, just under 8,000.

•Russia – Almost 5,000 cases were reported, and the crime holds a punishment of 4-10 years in jail.

2. Express Tribune:

Violence against women makes up 95 per cent of cases of violence reported in Pakistan. These statistics are even more chilling, bearing in mind that 70 per cent of cases of violence against women do not get registered. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that a rape occurs in Pakistan every two hours and a gang rape every eight hours.

Aurat Foundation’s report titled Situation of Violence against Women in Pakistan 2010 discloses that Punjab dominates with 2,690 registered cases out of a total of 4,069 incidents in various parts of Pakistan.

Interior Ministry documents placed before the National Assembly in 2008 revealed that a staggering 7,546 women were raped in a mere 24-month span between 2007-2009, a rate of 314 rapes every month.

According to War Against Rape, data released by 103 police stations in Karachi show an eight per cent rise in registered cases and seven per cent more medico-legal examinations in 2010 from 2009.

Since courts do not place restraining orders on all the accused released on bail, they often continue to harass the survivors. Whither justice when 31 per cent of cases reported against a family member have resulted in the family shifting away from their home, and removing themselves from the legal system to avoid social persecution?

Riaz Haq said...

Here are ten reasons why India has sexual violence problems according to a Washington Post blog:

1. Few female police: Studies show that women are more likely to report sex crimes if female police officers are available. India has historically had a much lower percentage of female police officers than other Asian countries. ...When women do report rape charges to male police, they are frequently demeaned.

2. Not enough police in general: There aren’t enough police dedicated to protecting ordinary citizens, rather than elites, a Brookings article argues, and the officers that are available often lack basic evidence-gathering and investigative training and equipment:

3. Blaming provocative clothing: There’s a tendency to assume the victims of sexual violence somehow brought it on themselves. In a 1996 survey of judges in India, 68 percent of the respondents said that provocative clothing is an invitation to rape. In response to the recent gang-rape incident, a legislator in Rajasthan suggested banning skirts as a uniform for girls in private schools, citing it as the reason for increased cases of sexual harassment.

4. Acceptance of domestic violence: The Reuters TrustLaw group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women this year, in part because domestic violence there is often seen as deserved. A 2012 report by UNICEF found that 57 percent of Indian boys and 53 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 think wife-beating is justified.

5. A lack of public safety: Women generally aren’t protected outside their homes. The gang rape occurred on a bus, and even Indian authorities say that the country’s public places can be unsafe for women. Many streets are poorly lit, and there’s a lack of women’s toilets, a Women and Child Development Ministry report said recently. ...

6. Stigmatizing the victim: When verbal harassment or groping do occur in public areas, bystanders frequently look the other way rather than intervene, both to avoid a conflict and because they — on some level — blame the victim, observers say.

7. Encouraging rape victims to compromise: In a recent separate rape case, a 17-year-old Indian girl who was allegedly gang-raped killed herself after police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.

Rape victims are often encouraged by village elders and clan councils to “compromise” with the family of accused and drop charges — or even to marry the attacker. Such compromises are aimed at keeping the peace between families or clan groups...

8. A sluggish court system: India’s court system is painfully slow, in part because of a shortage of judges. The country has about 15 judges for every 1 million people, while China has 159. A Delhi high court judge once estimated it would take 466 years to get through the backlog in the capital alone.

9. Few convictions: For rapes that do get reported, India’s conviction rate is no more than 26 percent. There is also no law on the books covering routine daily sexual harassment, which is euphemistically called “eve-teasing.” The passing of a proposed new sexual assault law has been delayed for seven years.

10. Low status of women: Perhaps the biggest issue, though, is women’s overall lower status in Indian society. For poor families, the need to pay a marriage dowry can make daughters a burden. India has one of the lowest female-to-male population ratios in the world because of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. Throughout their lives, sons are fed better than their sisters, are more likely to be sent to school and have brighter career prospects.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times Op Ed on a woman's experience of living in Delhi:

I LIVED for 24 years in New Delhi, a city where sexual harassment is as regular as mealtime. Every day, somewhere in the city, it crosses the line into rape.

As a teenager, I learned to protect myself. I never stood alone if I could help it, and I walked quickly, crossing my arms over my chest, refusing to make eye contact or smile. I cleaved through crowds shoulder-first, and avoided leaving the house after dark except in a private car. At an age when young women elsewhere were experimenting with daring new looks, I wore clothes that were two sizes too large. I still cannot dress attractively without feeling that I am endangering myself.

Things didn’t change when I became an adult. Pepper spray wasn’t available, and my friends, all of them middle- or upper-middle-class like me, carried safety pins or other makeshift weapons to and from their universities and jobs. One carried a knife, and insisted I do the same. I refused; some days I was so full of anger I would have used it — or, worse, had it used on me.

The steady thrum of whistles, catcalls, hisses, sexual innuendos and open threats continued. Packs of men dawdled on the street, and singing Hindi film songs, rich with double entendres, was how they communicated. To make their demands clear, they would thrust their pelvises at female passers-by.

If only it was just public spaces that were unsafe. In my office at a prominent newsmagazine, at the doctor’s office, even at a house party — I couldn’t escape the intimidation.

On Dec. 16, as the world now knows, a 23-year-old woman and a male friend were returning home after watching the movie “Life of Pi” at a mall in southwest Delhi. After they boarded what seemed to be a passenger bus, the six men inside gang-raped and tortured the woman so brutally that her intestines were destroyed. The bus service had been a ruse. The attackers also severely beat up the woman’s friend and threw them from the vehicle, leaving her to die.

The young woman didn’t oblige. She had started that evening watching a film about a survivor, and must have been determined to survive herself. Then she produced another miracle. In Delhi, a city habituated to the debasement of women, tens of thousands of people took to the streets and faced down police officers, tear gas and water cannons to express their outrage. It was the most vocal protest against sexual assault and rape in India to date, and it set off nationwide demonstrations.
The volume of protests in public and in the media has made clear that the attack was a turning point. The unspeakable truth is that the young woman attacked on Dec. 16 was more fortunate than many rape victims. She was among the very few to receive anything close to justice. She was hospitalized, her statement was recorded and within days all six of the suspected rapists were caught and, now, charged with murder. Such efficiency is unheard-of in India.

In retrospect it wasn’t the brutality of the attack on the young woman that made her tragedy unusual; it was that an attack had, at last, elicited a response.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Harvard Business Review piece on women in Pakistan:

"Pakistan is a highly complex and ambiguous country," Ehsan Malik, Country Manager for Unilever Pakistan, told me. "The media projects Pakistan as conservative, but there is a large segment of society that is liberal and broad minded." (Disclosure: Unilever is a client of mine globally, but not the Pakistan branch particularly.)

"My predecessor at Unilever Pakistan was a woman who went to run L'Oreal Pakistan. My wife runs a business and both our mothers and sisters have always worked, as do many in our families and friends. So for me Unilever's gender balance drive is not something extraordinary." Two of the people on Malik's six-person Management Committee are women, and he sees the possibility that his successor could be female. "There are three senior women who have been listed as high potential so we could have a majority female Management Committee in the foreseeable future."

"We aimed to set an example and become a model on gender balance. Now, virtually all our competitors are doing the same... In Pakistan, despite the bad press, when it comes to gender, employers are progressive."

How do the men react? "There was a debate two or three years back, around a concern that we were favoring women. We made it very clear: between two equal candidates, we said we would pick the woman because there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected." In Pakistan, as in a growing number of countries, women perform better academically. "Medical colleges are 70% women but less than half of them continue working beyond a few years of qualifying, partly because of family reasons but also due to working conditions," notes Malik.

In many companies I work for, some of the greatest openness and action on gender balance is in emerging market operations. I have found managers in Brazil, India or Malaysia more enthusiastic and convinced of the business case than their Western colleagues, in much more challenging contexts. And ready to go to much greater lengths to adapt to women's needs.

Like Pakistan. Unilever Pakistan has achieved its gender balancing targets internally (ahead of most Western countries), which Malik considered "relatively simple," yet by doing things that might appear inconceivable elsewhere. So, for example, to recruit female engineers in its remote factories, Unilever provides security-guard staffed housing for the women next to the facilities, ensuring their safety and reassuring their families. Flexible working from different locations — home, distributor premises, or ad agency offices — is another step that benefits all managers. However, he observed, "some female managers prefer coming to the office — there is a day care center to look after their children, they want to get away from extended families that many in Pakistan live with, [and] they can escape the power cuts that plague large cities."

These seemed like obvious investments to Malik who is now setting his sites on "a much bigger agenda" with gender as a competitive advantage with consumers, and a condition for working with suppliers.


For the moment, there are 900 women who have gone through the training, and Malik is planning on increasing this to 7,000. "The rural population's bank is usually a couple of villages away. So we are finding that not only do other women come for beauty advice, they also start coming for advice on how to open bank accounts and start a business. And it seems the men are starting to come too, looking for the same guidance."

"Where government fails," concludes Malik, " global companies can fill the void by building concepts that become platforms for change and progress."

Riaz Haq said...

An excerpt from the HDR 2013 report summary mentioning Pakistan is as follows:

More than four-fifths of these developing countries increased their trade to output ratio between 1990 and 2012. Among the exceptions in the subgroup that also made substantial improvement in HDI value are Indonesia, Pakistan and Venezuela, three large countries that are considered global players in world markets, exporting or importing from at least 80 economies. Two smaller countries whose trade
to output ratio declined (Mauritius and Panama) continue to trade at levels much higher than would be expected for countries at comparable income levels.

Here's a Business Standard report on HDI 2013 in South Asia:

Of 187 countries, India's Human Development Index (HDI), essentially a composite measure of health, education and income, rank stands at 136, on a par with Africa's Equatorial Guinea and just above Cambodia and Laos in Southeast Asia. Even over a longer period (between 2000 and 2012), it registered average annual HDI growth of 1.50 per cent, lower than Pakistan's (1.74 per cent).

Viewed in the context of the BRICs grouping (Brazil, Russia, India and China), India's standing is much below its peers - China is ranked 101st, Russia 55th and Brazil 85th. In fact, India remains squarely stuck at the bottom end of the second-lowest category in the report -Medium Human Development - even as neighbour Sri Lanka (99) moves a step higher towards becoming a "high human development" nation.

A closer look at India's performance reveals more inadequacies, especially in education. Though the country's life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling and per capita GNI are comparable to peers, India's "expected years of schooling" is significantly below others, including Vietnam, Bhutan and even Swaziland.

Gender inequality
India is no easy country for women. The Human Development Report's Gender Inequality Index, which assesses gender-based inequalities based on reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity, ranks India 132nd out of 148 countries, below Bangladesh (111) and Pakistan (123).

"26.6 per cent of adult women have a secondary or higher level of education, compared to 50.4 per cent of their male counterparts (in India)," said an explanatory note. "Female participation in the labour market is 29 per cent, compared with 80.7 per cent for men."

Difficult future?
Though the report recognises key initiatives undertaken in India in recent years - particularly reforms in the education system, the direct cash transfer programme, a rise in social sector spending, public-private-partnerships across sectors and growing connectivity -vital concerns remain.

"India has the most projected child deaths over 2010-2015, about 7.9 million, accounting for nearly half the deaths among children under five in Asia," the report said. "China has more people than India, but is projected to have less than a quarter (1.7 million) the number of child deaths over 2010-2015."

India also has to contend with a substantial, uneducated population, possibly partly counteracting the country's feted demographic dividend. "Despite the recent expansion in basic schooling and impressive growth in better educated Indians, the proportion of the adult population with no education will decline only slowly," the report predicted.

"Even under an optimistic fast-track scenario, which assumes education expansion similar to Korea's, India's education distribution in 2050 will still be highly unequal, with a sizeable group of uneducated (mostly elderly) adults."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Beast piece on girls' education in Pakistan:

Humaira Bachal was just a teenager when she looked around her impoverished Karachi neighborhood at the children roaming the barren streets, and realized that she and her sister were the only ones who were going to school. Bachal’s mother was making sure her daughters got an education, against her father’s wishes. When her father discovered she was going to take a high school entrance exam, he beat her mother. He also beat her. She took the exam anyway. And then, determined to improve the shameful number of girls completing a primary education in Pakistan—only 59 percent—Bachal she started teaching a handful of local children in her home.

A decade later, Bachal was sitting on stage in an ornate theater at Lincoln Center in New York, talking about the 1,200-student school she runs in a gang-ridden part of Karachi through the Dream Foundation Trust, which she created and runs. Bachal “doesn’t take any nonsense. And the [local] men respect that,” says documentarian Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (CEO, SOC Films), who made a movie featuring the Pakistani activist and who was also on stage for the fourth annual Women in the World Summit, hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Along with her fellow Pakistani panelist Khalida Brohi (founder and director, Sughar Women’s Program) and of course Malala Yousafzai, all of whom began their education activism as teenagers, Bachal represented a major thread woven through the 2013 summit: the promise of the rising generation of young women activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

Call it the girls-who-change-the-world summit. Of course there were many veteran activists among the featured delegates, but there was also a sense that the current crop of tech-savvy young women may be able to change women’s education and labor-force participation even more quickly and decisively than their immediate predecessors. As Hillary Clinton put it in her summit address, “Much of our advocacy is a top-down frame. It’s past time to embrace a 21st-century approach to advancing the opportunities of women and girls” by empowering youthful, grassroots leaders.

In India and Pakistan, the poorest 20 percent of boys get five more years of education than girls do.”


Though women are rocking education in the United States—they now get the majority of both college and graduate degrees—they are sorely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, known in the jargon as STEM. In fact, they’ve lost ground in the past decade. As the summit’s “Grooming Titans of Tech” panel moderator Chelsea Clinton pointed out, the number of female computer science majors has dropped from 20 to 12 percent in the past decade. Reshma Saujani, the founder of the organization Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that teaches underprivileged teens how to code in computer science languages, is looking to change those dreadful numbers. Saujani bragged to the WITW audience about how evangelical her first group of graduates is: they teach their friends what they learn in their coding classes.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on women making up majority of students at Karachi's Dow Medical University:

KARACHI, Pakistan — In a lecture hall of one of Pakistan’s most prestigious medical schools, a handful of male students sits in the far top corner, clearly outnumbered by the rows and rows of female students listening intently to the doctor lecturing about insulin.

In a country better known for honor killings of women and low literacy rates for girls, Pakistan’s medical schools are a reflection of how women’s roles are evolving. Women now make up the vast majority of students studying medicine, a gradual change that’s come about after a quota favoring male admittance into medical school was lifted in 1991.

The trend is a step forward for women in Pakistan, a largely conservative Muslim country. But there remain obstacles. Many women graduates don’t go on to work as doctors, largely because of pressure from family and society to get married and stop working — so much so that there are now concerns over the impact on the country’s health care system.

At Dow Medical College in the southern port city of Karachi, the female students said they are adamant they will work.

Standing in the school’s courtyard as fellow students — almost all of them women — gathered between classes, Ayesha Sultan described why she wants to become a doctor.

“I wanted to serve humanity, and I believe that I was born for this,” said Sultan, who is in her first year. “The women here are really striving hard to get a position, especially in this country where women’s discrimination is to the zenith, so I think that’s why you find a lot of women here.”

For years, a government-imposed quota mandated that 80 percent of the seats at medical schools went to men and 20 percent to women. Then the Supreme Court ruled that the quota was unconstitutional and that admission should be based solely on merit.

Now about 80 to 85 percent of Pakistan’s medical students are women, said Dr. Mirza Ali Azhar, the secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association. Statistics gathered by The Associated Press show that at medical schools in some deeply conservative areas of the country such as Baluchistan in the southwest and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest, men still outnumber women. But in Punjab and Sindh provinces, which turn out the vast bulk of medical students, the women dominate. At Dow, it is currently about 70 percent women to 30 percent men.

In comparison, about 47 percent of medical students in the U.S. are women, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

There are a number of different reasons why men don’t make the cut, say students, faculty and medical officials. Medical school takes too long and is too difficult. Boys have more freedom to leave the house than girls, so they have more distractions. Boys want a career path in business or IT that will make them more money and faster, in part because they need to earn money to raise families.

At Dow, for example, just about all the male graduates work as doctors, but only an estimated half the women do, says Dr. Umar Farooq, the school’s pro-vice chancellor. Nationwide figures on how many women graduates forgo actual practice don’t exist, but despite years of increased women’s enrollment, the gender breakdown of doctors remains lopsided. Of the 132,988 doctors registered with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, 58,789 are women. The number of female specialists is even smaller: 7,524 out of 28,686....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian story of Pakistani women in politics:

When Pakistan's new foreign minister arrived in India for talks in 2011 it triggered a media storm on both sides of the border – not because of policy but a Birkin bag. Hina Rabbani Khar, at 34 Pakistan's youngest and first female foreign minister, was put under international scrutiny for her pearl necklaces, Cavalli sunglasses and expensive handbags. "A guy in my place would never get such attention – nobody would be talking about his suit," she said at the time.

Powerful women the world over are evaluated on their appearance, but in Pakistan there are additional cultural constraints. However, as the country gears up for Saturday's general election – its first ever transition from one elected government to another – female politicians are standing up to change their future at the ballot box.

Figures released by the Election Commission show a 129.8% increase in the number of women contesting general seats since the 2008 election. As well as Khar, Pakistan has had a female prime minister in Benazir Bhutto and currently has Fehmida Mirza as speaker. Reserved seats for women have always been guaranteed in Pakistan's constitution, and over the years the number of quota seats has increased due to the efforts of activists. While reserved seats are improving representation (it stands at 22.5%, the same as in the UK, and better than the US's 17.8%), these women are predominantly from elite backgrounds. Those from poorer families remain excluded from the political system and, at the far end of the spectrum, many women are so disenfranchised that they cannot vote.

South Asia, despite its social conservatism, has a long history of female representation, with political systems often heavily dominated by a few families. Women such as Bhutto and India's Indira Gandhi stood in place of their father or husband, the family name allowing them to step outside traditional female roles: Khar contested elections because her father Noor was disqualified. Despite her swift rise to the cabinet she will not stand this year, because her father has been reinstated.

"It is difficult for women," says Anis Haroon, a caretaker minister for human rights and women. "It's non-traditional ground to tread, and women still bear the responsibility of home and children. Character assassination is easy in a patriarchal, conservative society. Women must work twice as hard to prove their worth." Last month, an election official in Lahore told the husband of prospective candidate Sadia Sohail that if she were elected, "the arrangements at your home will be ruined and no one will be there to attend your children"....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IBN Live story:

Finland best place to be a mother; India behind China, Pakistan
Press Trust of India | 08-May 17:47 PM
Beijing: Finland has topped the list of countries where mothers enjoy the best conditions in the world, while India ranks a low 142nd, below China and Pakistan, according to a new global report.
The annual report called 'State of World's Mothers 2013' was issued by an international NGO "Save the Children" before the Mother's Day in mid-May.
The report was featured by a ranking list of Mothers' index, showing the conditions of mothers in 176 countries, Xinhua news agency reported.
Among the reviewed countries, Finland was ranked the best country for being mothers followed by Sweden, Norway, Iceland while Democratic Republic of Congo was considered to be the toughest place.
The mothers' well-being was assessed under five indexes, including maternal health, child mortality, education, working income and political status.
According to the annual report, one in thirty pregnant women in DR Congo died from maternal causes, while in Finland the ratio was only one in 12,200.
As for education, women in DR Congo were likely to be educated for 8.5 years, compared with 17 years in Finland. Nearly 43 per cent of Finnish parliamentary seats were held by women, whereas the ratio in DR Congo was only 8 per cent.
Although Finland did not perform the absolute "best" in each index, it became the only country with all five indexes ranking among the top 12. The US places 30th this year while Pakistan was 139th on the list.
China ranked at the 68th place, the best ranking among the major emerging developing countries. The top ten countries attained very high scores for mothers' and children's health, educational, economic and political status. They include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Australia.
The 10 bottom-ranked countries, which are all from sub-Saharan Africa, performed poorly on all indicators. They include Cote d'Ivoire (167), Chad (168), Nigeria (169), Gambia (170), Central African Republic (171), Niger (172), Mali (173), Sierra Leone (174), Somalia (175) and Democratic Republic of Congo (176).
Conditions for mothers and their children in the bottom countries are grim. On average, 1 woman in 30 dies from pregnancy-related causes and 1 child in 7 dies before his or her fifth birthday, the report said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on Pakistan Army's first female paratroopers:

Pakistan’s first group of female paratroopers completed their training on Sunday, the military announced, hailing it as a “landmark achievement” for the deeply conservative Muslim country.
Captain Kiran Ashraf was declared the best paratrooper of the batch of 24, the military said in a statement, while Captain Sadia, referred to by one name, became the first woman officer to jump from a MI-17 helicopter.
Women have limited opportunities in Pakistan’s highly traditional, patriarchal society. The United Nations says only 40 percent of adult women are literate, and are frequently the victims of violence and abuse.
But in 2006, seven women broke into one of Pakistan’s most exclusive male clubs to graduate as fighter pilots - perhaps the most prestigious job in the powerful military and for six decades closed to the fairer sex.
After three weeks’ basic airborne training, which included exit, flight and landing techniques, the new paratroopers completed their first jump on Sunday and were given their “wings” by the commander of Special Services Group, Major General Abid Rafique, the military said.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Burka Avenger female superhero reflects shifting ground realities with increasing women participation in the affairs of the nation.

Examples include:

1. First women paratroopers inducted in Pakistan Army.

2. First female combat pilot commissioned in Pakistan Air Force.

3. First female jirga held in Pakistan.

4. Malala Yousufzai emerges as an international icon for girls' education in Pakistan and elsewhere.

5. Increasing number of court marriages by young couples in defiance of tradition of marriages arranged by parents.

6. Rising female participation in Pakistan's work force.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about a telehealth facility for women in Karachi:

Karachi: Pakistan’s largest city and commercial centre, Karachi, is a city of extremes where the richest live alongside the country’s poorest. Perfectly coiffed women with foreign degrees and fancy handbags tour around the city’s designer malls. At the other end of the spectrum, a range of hurdles leave women from the poorest sections of society struggling to access basic services, particularly healthcare.
But a recently launched telehealth service is hoping to change that by giving women in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city with a population of around 18 million, access to basic health advice for free from a mobile phone.
“This is a big opportunity to improve access to woman in urban areas who have no access to basic healthcare and information, particularly during pregnancy,” says Zahid Ali Fahim, head of the telehealth service run by the Aman Foundation, a Pakistan-based non-governmental organisation. Dr Fahim oversees the 26-seat call centre that has been working around the clock for the past 18 months.
According to the World Health Organisation’s Global Health Observatory report, 40 per cent of premature deaths in adults in Pakistan would have been preventable through early intervention. Though there is no official WHO breakdown by gender, experts say a significant portion of those premature deaths are women. Distance to hospitals and clinics, the cost of transport, and low levels of trust in government-run services leaves men and women unable to seek the medical help they may need.
A strict social code for many women presents an additional obstacle. Low literacy rates — 57 per cent of women are illiterate in Pakistan compared with 26 per cent of men — and a lack of basic health knowledge compound the problem.
When women are able to travel to a clinic or hospital, they are usually accompanied by a male relative, leaving many unwilling — or unable — to explain their medical problem to the doctor.
“Women don’t want to get healthcare services without their [male relative] presence,” explains Dr Fahim, “But she cannot say anything when she goes to the facilities. The head of the family does all the talking.”...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Toronto Star story on child brides in Pakistan's KP province:

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA, PAKISTAN—At only 12, Nazia lives in expectation of the worst. As I step through the doorway of the humble compound her parents share with two other families in the Pashtun lands of northwest Pakistan, her small, fragile body trembles unwittingly. She knew I was coming, but learned too young to trust no one.
Nazia was only 5 when her father married her off to a much older man, a stranger, as compensation for a murder her uncle had committed. The decision to give the little girl away as payment, along with two goats and a piece of land, was made by a jirga — an assembly of local elders that makes up the justice system in most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s tribal areas, where conventional courts are either not trusted or nonexistent.

Nazia was too young to understand what was happening when that man dragged her into the darkness. But she knew enough to realize something was terribly wrong. “I resisted, I cried and tried to hold on to the door jamb,” she remembers.
Nazia was taken to the jirga, displayed as a commodity before the circle of men and examined by the husband to be, who was allowed to decide whether she was good enough to be his wife. Nazia remembers the men staring at her deep brown eyes, her long, black hair — the humiliation of that scene is so utterly marked in her memory that she can barely finish the sentence before dissolving in tears.
The men in her family argued, unsuccessfully, that she was too young to be married off. In a rare decision, however, the jirga agreed the girl should not be handed over immediately. So the demanding husband would have to wait — and so has Nazia. Even among the women in the house, she wears a full-length black chador, as if a male intruder could suddenly enter that door again.

She is terrified of growing up. Her parents have been able to postpone their daughter’s fate — but not for much longer, certainly no later than age 14. Most child brides are pregnant by then.
Made to suffer
According to tradition, the compensation — a custom known as swara in Pashtun — should end the dispute and bring the two warring families together in harmony. In practice, however, the marriage only provides cover for revenge. Swara girls become the targets of all anger and hatred in their new home. They are often bitten, emotionally tortured and sometimes raped by other men in the family. They are made to suffer for a crime they did not commit.
The swara custom is a form of collective punishment. Nazia’s uncle — the perpetrator of the crime for which she is to be punished — killed a neighbour in a land dispute and then ran away. He left no children, so the jirga decided his older brother should pay in his place by sacrificing his own daughter.
Nazia’s father is a poor, uneducated farmer, and he could do nothing to contest this ruling. Having lost his land and livestock, he now works in temporary construction jobs, which pay $3 a day. His wife helps by cleaning neighbours’ houses for a few more rupees....

Riaz Haq said...

"If war breaks out, I will be flying on my senior's wing as his wingman, well, wingwoman," she said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph at the headquarters of the Pakistan Air Force in Islamabad.....For Fl Lt Farooq, it would provide the ultimate chance to prove that women were every bit the equal of men in the cockpit.
"When I get orders I will go and fight. I want to prove myself, to show that I'm doing something for my country."

Riaz Haq said...

Forbes magazine released its third annual "30 Under 30" list on Monday, "a tally of the brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30," and three Pakistani women made the cut in the Social Entrepreneurship category (ET). The most well-known woman on the list is Malala Yousafzai, who became an international champion of girls' education after she was shot by the Pakistani Taliban in October 2012. She is credited with co-founding the Malala Fund, which aims to increase girls' enrollment in formal education in the developing world; her co-founder, Shiza Shahid, is also on the list. Shahid, a graduate from Stanford University, was also listed on TIME magazine's "30 Under 30" list in December 2013. Rounding out the list is Khalida Brohi, who founded Sughar, a non-profit organization that helps women start small businesses so they can become more financially independent, after witnessing the death of her friend in an honor killing.

Anonymous said...

GUJAR KHAN: Only 22 per cent of Pakistani women are recognised as working in the formal sector, although many more play an active role in the country's economy.

The contribution of those in the informal sector has been undervalued for years, but now, many women in rural areas are taking the lead in their families, some through micro-credit loans.

Ambreen Ashraf got a loan of around US$230 two years ago, with which she bought a cow.

Selling its milk every month has enabled her to earn money - something she had never been able to do before.

She said: "It feels good that we can run our home easily and it helps my husband. The money from the cow makes things easier- there is a good atmosphere at home. Children are happy - they go to good schools and we're happy they can now get a good education."

Access to credit can be difficult for people in rural areas, so a local initiative has helped those like Ms Ambreen borrow money to start their own businesses.

The loan is guaranteed by the community organisation, made up of other villagers who then monitor repayments themselves.

It has been hugely successful and 60 per cent of the beneficiaries are women.

Rubeena Bibi, a mother of four, was given an interest-free lump sum, which helped her become the family's breadwinner.

She said: "I sew and earn money every month - can pay the bills and buy milk and also save. My husband earns less than me, so we're able to save with my money.

“I feel happy that I can help my children and husband, who is ill."

Across most of Pakistan and in rural areas especially, men call the shots and women's work are often undervalued.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, women make up only 22 per cent of the labour force, but campaigners said this does not take into account those who work informally.

Some people however, welcome the idea of working women.

Community elder Mohammad Fazal said: "The women, besides making dinner and doing housework, used to sit around all day. But I think it's good to make them active in the community so they can also benefit. They're poor and hardworking and just want to increase their income."

Mohammad Tariq Nazir from National Rural Support Programme said: "They are earning and they are helping their husbands and they are providing support to their families. So within the family the women who are earning have their own say and they are being heard by the men now because of these activities."

While the situation is still bleak for many women when it comes to equal opportunities, some households are slowly shifting the traditional views of what a woman's role should be.

Riaz Haq said...

On the surface, it looks like it is all bad news, especially for female journalists. Despite the harsh working conditiones (low salaries, stress, violence), the fact remains that more and more women are joining media in Pakistan. And for a good reason. This is a country that has a story in every corner, waiting to be told. And women, by default, are great story-tellers. They also have so much to say, and are natural born "fixers". Journalism is thus a great career choice for us.

Pakistan's situation, of late has unearthed some new fields and exposed some voids waiting to be filled by reporters, who can choose them as their niches in the world of journalism. With the risk of sounding cliche, there are the proverbial "silver linings" to this mayhem.

Here's an example of one of the new beats opening up before women journalists: If earlier I was writing features just focusing on reproductive health and family planning, I now focus on how the security crises have affected women in conflict-ridden parts of the country. If roads are blown up and the infrastructure is damaged, women end up paying the highest price. For example, women in such areas would not be able to access hospitals for childbirth, and female doctors, for safety reasons, cannot travel to conflict zones. All this needs to be highlighted. And women reporters do that well.

In times of conflict, the vulnerable sections of society like women and children, are most impacted by displacement and losing the men in their lives. Women, as stakeholders in peace processes at any level, are often ignored. Their voice needs to be heard. Over time, the importance of this particular "beat" or focus as a journalist became obvious to me.

It was important that I was there at Peshawer's Lady Reading Hospital to talk to Fatima Bibi (not her real name) whose 14-year-old son had lost his limbs in a blast. She wanted to do something about it more than just weep. She went on to become a peace-builder in her own town. Her story needed to be told. And it was.

Defining factors

The good part, however, is that it doesn't really matter if you were a male or a female journalist in Pakistan. Media in this country is quickly becoming a sphere where the man-woman dynamic is not necessarily the defining factor. We are not second-guessed because we are women. We are treated as equals to our male colleagues. There is a definite air of synergy which is conducive to the nature of this craft.

Yes, we want to see even more women in key leadership positions in media houses, even right at the top. Indeed, many have gotten there, while others are on their way up.

The professional hazards, like being stared at or harassed, are not specific to journalism or Pakistan. If, as women we ask for equality, we have to handle these hiccups, although this does not mean staying silent about it. Over time, we learn to handle it. There may be a few "boys' clubs" that are a tad bit over-protective about their female counterparts, but generally, Pakistan's female journalists are a strong voice in the country's overall narrative.

Anonymous said...

MANDRA, Pakistan (AP) — Amna Bhatti has spent half a century shaping mud into bricks in a huge kiln south of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. She started by paying off her parents' debt and now she's on to her late husband's. She'll probably spend the rest of her life here.

Bhatti was 10 when she started working at the kiln to pay off her parents' debt. Now, at 60, she is paying off the 250,000 rupees (approximately $2,500) in debt her husband left behind when he died 12 years ago.

She has managed to cut 1,000 dollars off that original loan, but has taken more loans from her employer — so it is doubtful she will ever emerge from debt in her lifetime.

"We are poor, and we will always stay poor. When you enter this road the only way out of it is death," Bhatti said, speaking next to the clay she was shaping into bricks.

Tens of thousands of other poor Pakistanis work hard in brick kilns, agriculture fields and other hard labor across Pakistan in what is called "bonded labor" to pay off family loans often passed down through generations. They often have no proper living facilities or basic amenities like running water or bathrooms. They generally make about 350 rupees a day (approximately $3.50) for their hard work.

There are no reliable statistics about the number of Pakistanis living and working as bonded laborers. But they can be found across the country working in agriculture, the carpet-making industry, brick kilns and other industries, according to the National Coalition Against Bonded Labor, a joint platform of different rights organizations.

Anonymous said...

MANDRA, Pakistan (AP) — Amna Bhatti has spent half a century shaping mud into bricks in a huge kiln south of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. She started by paying off her parents' debt and now she's on to her late husband's. She'll probably spend the rest of her life here.

Bhatti was 10 when she started working at the kiln to pay off her parents' debt. Now, at 60, she is paying off the 250,000 rupees (approximately $2,500) in debt her husband left behind when he died 12 years ago.

She has managed to cut 1,000 dollars off that original loan, but has taken more loans from her employer — so it is doubtful she will ever emerge from debt in her lifetime.

"We are poor, and we will always stay poor. When you enter this road the only way out of it is death," Bhatti said, speaking next to the clay she was shaping into bricks.

Tens of thousands of other poor Pakistanis work hard in brick kilns, agriculture fields and other hard labor across Pakistan in what is called "bonded labor" to pay off family loans often passed down through generations. They often have no proper living facilities or basic amenities like running water or bathrooms. They generally make about 350 rupees a day (approximately $3.50) for their hard work.

There are no reliable statistics about the number of Pakistanis living and working as bonded laborers. But they can be found across the country working in agriculture, the carpet-making industry, brick kilns and other industries, according to the National Coalition Against Bonded Labor, a joint platform of different rights organizations.

Riaz Haq said...

Samina Baig becomes the first Pakistani to scale Mount Everest

“Today at 7:40am local time Samina Baig has successfully reached the summit of Mt Everest together with her brother Mirza and the Indian twin girls Tashi and Nugshi!” Mirza Ali updated his blog on Sunday.
The brother and sister have engaged several dangerous mountains for the last 4 years. Against all the odds in a largely male dominant society, Samina and her brother have pushed all the limits for what they call “mission for gender equality and eco-realization’’.
The Everest Expedition was started on April 1st and is reported to be privately sponsored by Mirza and Samina’s Kiwi friends through Seven Summit, a Nepali tour operator. The people of Gilgit Baltistan have extended their congratulations to Samina and Mirza on the latest mountaineering accolade.
In a special message from London, MQM’s chief Altaf Hussain has congratulated Samina Baig for her courageous achievement.
"Samina Baig has made the nation proud by scaling the highest mountain of the world. I salute to the courage of the lady. Hopefully, Samina will be followed as role model by women of Pakistan. Her achievement will ignite zeal in women folk of the country”, Altaf Hussain said.
The love for Everest demands life. It always reciprocates human feelings with dangers. Gender equality, women empowerment and love for ecology were so dear to Samina that she did not stop until she had to— to pitch the victory flag on the top of the Everest.

Riaz Haq said...

#‎Pakistan‬ squash star Maria Toor of South Waziristan raises voice for equality at ‪#‎AsianGames2014‬ via @rapplerdotcom …
INCHEON, South Korea- As a child Maria Toorpakay Wazir had to dress as a boy to be able to play sports in Pakistan and now as the country's number one women's squash player she says there is still too much resistance.

Toorpakay, competing at the Asian Games in South Korea, vowed not to stop helping girls in Pakistan overcome discrimination and cultural obstacles even though she has received threats for her work.

"I feel that this is my responsibility," said Toorpakay after she was beaten by Hong Kong's Annie Au in the women's singles late Sunday, September 21. "I have to raise my voice for the other girls."

Toorpakay's family comes from Waziristan, the lawless tribal area in northwest Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Malala Yousafzai, the acclaimed teenaged activist for girls' education, comes from the same region.
Toorpakay at first competed in weightlifting, frequently beating the boys at tournaments. But her father made her switch to squash, where her gender was discovered.

After being required to produce a birth certificate to play squash at the age of 16, the truth about Toorpakay came out and she was bullied by other players.

Toorpakay said Pakistan is changing – but very slowly.

"Always there are people who do support this logic but there are people who still resist this logic," she said.

But Pakistan's number one women's squash player believes the tide cannot now be turned back. Toorpakay said her rise in international squash should be an example to other young women in Pakistan.

"I have to give them the same opportunity so that they become champions too," she said.

Toorpakay turned professional in 2006 and came third in the World Junior Women's Championship in 2009.

"This is a beautiful sport, and today I feel that God has given me a chance to come up to such position," she said.

She vowed to help Pakistan's women to emerge from the shadows through sport, saying it had helped her overcome her tough life in one of the world's most dangerous regions.

"Squash is my lord and I've worked so hard to get to this position," she said. -

Riaz Haq said...

PMDC’s decision to fix 50 pc seats in medical and dental colleges for females to flout merit as usually 70 pc of all seats are secured by females
• AIMC principal welcomes decision, says girls do not work in far-flung areas after securing education
• Students suggest govt takes surety from all medical college students to work after education, instead of adopting quota system

The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) has introduced a quota system in medical colleges restricting the seats for female students to 50 per cent, Pakistan Today has learnt, a decision which will ensure gender ‘equality’ but will discriminate against female students as more than 60 per cent of those securing admissions in medical colleges since 2008 are females.
Considering the “growing trend of females” in medical education but “decreasing sustainability” of females in the field, the council decided in a meeting in February that the “number of seats for males and females in medical education should be 50 per cent each”.
Interestingly, the decision taken in February was notified on September 18, stating that the new quota system would be applied on undergraduate admissions in all public and private medical and dental institutions for the Academic Year 2014-2015.
The notification comes at a time when the admission process in the medical colleges is ongoing across the country. Punjab held a medical college entry test (MCAT) in August and prospective students have now submitted their applications whereas the first merit list will be displayed on October 30. As per PMDC’s regulations, admissions in medical and dental colleges should be wrapped up by November 15.

Riaz Haq said...

Her name is Humaira Bachal. At age 12, she began teaching friends after school in the slums of Karachi. At age 13, she made a formal classroom outside her home by installing a chalkboard to teach other children who could not attend school at the end of her own school day. By age 16, she founded a school with four younger female colleagues (her sister and three friends) in a run-down building with “dirt, water and mud all around [where] all we had was… two rooms with bare walls.” By age 21, in the same slums she now had a school with 1,200 students where her 18 year-old sister Tahira was school principal. Two documentary filmmakers and some reporters found her and documented her story. Then the second documentarist became an Academy and Emmy Award winner. The Academy Award winning filmaker later introduced Ms. Bachal to Madonna. At 25, Ms. Bachal was on stage with Madonna at a concert for women’s rights during which Madonna promoted raising money for Ms. Bachal’s Dream Foundation Trust to build her a better school. In late September this year, at age 27, Humaira Bachal opened the new building of her Dream Model Street School.

To put in context the challenge Ms. Bachal overcame simply to become educated in Pakistan’s slums (never mind becoming a leading education advocate), about 40% of girls and 20% of boys grow up illiterate in Pakistan today according to UNICEF. Consider further that according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Rankings Pakistan ranks 141st out of 142 countries ranked, only finishing ahead of Yemen while behind Nigeria (118th), Saudia Arabia (130th) and Iran (137th).

In multiple documentaries, Ms. Bachal’s mother Zainab has discussed how Ms. Bachal’s father physically beat her because she allowed young Humaira to continue going to school in 9th grade and hid the fact from him (the beating came when he found out). On film in her earlier days, one of Ms. Bachal’s own brothers has said that after seeing what was going on at Ms. Bachal’s school, he would not allow any of his own daughters to attend his sister’s or any non-religious school; he would only allow his daughters religious education, “I will never get my daughters into school except for some basic Islamic teaching. For my son’s education, I am willing to even beg in the streets.”

Riaz Haq said...

The fearless policewomen taking on the Taliban: Pakistan's female volunteers put through their paces in intense desert commando training
Policewomen will take charge in police raids within anti-terror operations
More women recruited as NATO forces pull out of bordering Afghanistan
Comes amid greater co-operation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and US

Running through the arid desert in the searing heat armed with AK-47s, these pictures show the gruelling work out undertaken by Pakistan's female volunteers.
They have been put through their paces in an intense commando training to help combat the Taliban.
After the training - which took place in the Hakimabad district of Nowshera in northern Pakistan - the policewomen will take charge in police raids within anti-terror operations.
More women are being recruited to fight the Taliban as NATO forces withdraw from neighbouring Afghanistan this month.
They also have the advantage of being able to perform jobs that men cannot - in the segregated and strictly religious world of Pakistan - women can only be searched by women.

Their training also comes in the wake of signs of greater co-operation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US in the last week.

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

How High Can #Pakistan’s Air Force #PAF Women Fly?

Flight Lt. Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan’s only combat-ready female air force pilot, has become both an international celebrity and a symbol of a new Pakistan, where women are breaking barriers and taking on roles traditionally closed to them. Yet Pakistan is also known as a country where women’s place in society yo-yos up and down. For example, in the 1990s it entrusted the leadership of the entire nation to Benazir Bhutto while still resisting girls’ education and advances in women’s rights.

Given this contradictory attitude, how far can Pakistan’s female air force officers expect to go?

That’s hard to answer. The air force has been more progressive than other branches of the military. At its inception, it modeled its service environment after the British Royal Air Force. In the late 1950s, while receiving an increasing amount of American equipment and mentorship, its chiefs turned more toward the ethos of the United States Air Force, and women began serving as air force doctors and nurses.

Then, in 1977, Group Capt. Shahida Perveen joined the force as a psychologist in a prominent role; she did psychological testing for the recruitment center, then helped establish an Institute of Air Safety to research how human error led to air accidents. She describes receiving “red carpet treatment” on joining the air force, and credits Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — the prime minister at the time, and Benazir Bhutto’s father — with opening doors for women who had ambitions beyond the medical units.

Still, women remained barred from other branches of the air force until 1995, when Ms. Bhutto, as prime minister, persuaded Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak to think about women joining branches of the air force beyond the medical branch, “now that women were being considered for everything — thanks to her influence,” says Riazuddin Shaikh, a retired air marshal who served under Air Chief Marshal Khattak.

Female cadets were then recruited into administrative and accounting departments. They became air traffic controllers, worked in law, logistics and education. They were trained for aeronautical engineering, avionics and information technology; they played huge roles in designing specialized avionics software and managing hardware at air force bases. Despite some reservations among male officers, Air Marshal Shaikh recalls no serious adverse reactions.


Eight years ago, Lieutenant Farooq’s extended family saw her choice to join the air force as an aberration from a woman’s normal path, and they tried to dissuade her, she related in a recent lecture. But, she said, she took their criticism as a challenge that drove her harder to succeed. Today, she said, she is happily married to a fellow air force officer, and her once-skeptical relatives now ask how their own daughters can join the air force.

In the force, Lieutenant Farooq was trained like the men. When fuel fumes made her nauseated her first time up in a Mishaal propeller plane, her instructor simply passed her the controls and ordered her to fly. Only later, on her first solo flight, she related, did she really feel in control in the air, with the “entire world beneath my feet.”

These days, the Pakistani Air Force eagerly trumpets her rise as a symbol of its modernity. But Air Marshal Shaikh is realistic. “It will take time before a woman can ever become the head of a branch, or even the head of the air force,” he says — the implication being that we may never live to see it. Still, growing numbers of Pakistani women view an air force career as an option, not just to serve their country but to gain the ultimate feeling of control over their lives.

Riaz Haq said...

Going from an inner-city slum to an Ivy League university is an incredible journey for anyone. But for a girl in Pakistan, a country where the female literacy rate is 38%, it is an almost unheard-of achievement.

Anum Fatima made international headlines when she won a summer scholarship to Harvard. She grew up in a Karachi slum but attended a school run by The Citizens Foundation (TCF), an education charity which has opened 1000 schools teaching more than 145,000 underprivileged children. TCF schools are built in deprived areas and are open to all faiths and ethnicities. They also focus on giving both girls and boys equal access to education - 46% of their pupils are female.

Now 23, Fatima was one of TCF’s first graduates. The daughter of a maid and a driver, she completed her undergraduate degree and has started a Masters Programme from CBM, a leading business school in Karachi, with a TCF scholarship. Fatima says: “I want to be the CEO of a leading company but before that I want to spend a few years at TCF to pay them back for all they have done for me."

Anum has given presentations on the challenges girls face

While she was delighted with the news that she would be jetting off to Massachusetts, her father had a slightly delayed reaction. Fatima said: “He had not heard of Harvard. When he went to work that day, he asked his boss, who told him what a tremendous achievement it was.”

Fatima came first in her class at the Harvard summer school. She says: “It was an advanced learning programme for English. There were 15 students from all over the world. I topped my class and received a certificate and a book signed by the Dean.”

During the three-month trip she also spoke at the US State Department and interned at a US-based think tank. She was able to give people an accurate description of the educational challenges in her country.

Fatima said: “People in the West think that girls in Pakistan are not allowed to study. In all of the presentations I made and all the people I talked to, I told them that parents wanted their girls to study but it was the lack of resources and awareness that held them back.”

The need for education to be made a priority in Pakistan is clear - 26 countries that are poorer than Pakistan send more children to primary school and one in 10 children worldwide who are not in primary school live in Pakistan. TCF believes its model is a Pakistani solution to a Pakistani problem.

Ateed Riaz, Co-Founder of The Citizens Foundation, said: “Everything related to education is a step forward; whether it is under a tree, in a garage or in a tent. However, we felt that since we ourselves are a product of formal education, we will build our institution along the same lines. We will create schools which are properly built, and not in a tent or basement. We were confident about our decision and there was never any hesitation or doubt regarding the path we had chosen.”

Riaz Haq said...

In 1910, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that a wife had no cause for action on an assault and battery charge against her husband because it "would open the doors of the courts to accusations of all sorts of one spouse against the other and bring into public notice complaints for assault, slander and libel."

As recently as 1977, the California Penal Code stated that wives charging husbands with criminal assault and battery must suffer more injuries than commonly needed for charges of battery.


Some time in the 1700s, an English common law came into effect that decreed that a husband had the right to "chastise his wife with a whip or rattan no bigger than his thumb, in order to enforce...domestic discipline. For as he is to answer for her misbehavior, the law thought it reasonable to entrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his apprentices or children." This law came to be known as the "law of thumb".

In the U.S., the courts continued to uphold a man's right to punish his wife with violence until 1871. In a case known as Fulgam vs. the State of Alabama, the court ruled that, "The privilege, ancient though it may be, to beat her with a stick, to pull her hair, choke her, spit in her face or kick her about the floor or to inflict upon her other like indignities, is not now acknowledged by our law."

Riaz Haq said...

Breaking stereotypes and driving through gender-based obstacles, Shamim Akhtar from Rawalpindi is Pakistan’s first female truck driver.

The 53-year-old single mother said “Nothing is too difficult if you have the will, however if women make themselves believe that they can’t do certain tasks then nothing works for them.”

Driving cars for many years, Akhtar decided to step out of Pakistan’s traditional domestic rule which requires women to stay home, when she saw her family going through financial hardship.

Therefore, in order to support two children at home and to cover the cost of her three eldest daughters’ weddings, Akhtar set off to take driving lessons for heavy vehicles.

“My son tells me not to drive too far, it’s dangerous but I told him that we have to earn a living. We only eat when we earn,” Akhtar said as she prepared herself to transport a load of 7000 bricks from a factory in Rawalpindi to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a gruelling 200 kilometres trip.

An inspiration for many, she was issued a public service vehicle license, a first for a Pakistani woman- allowing her to pull trailers, drive trucks and tractors.

“Whatever I am today, it is because of the Islamabad Traffic Police training course,” Akhtar said humbly.

Further, while most Pakistani male drivers lack formal driving lessons for heavy vehicles, Akhtar seems to have an edge over the men which she uses to teach a novice.

And among many of her colleagues, her student Usman Ali too, has a lot of respect for Akhtar.

“She behaves well, and treats us like her sons. We too treat her as a mother and that is how our relationship is,” one of Akhtar’s colleagues said for her.

Riaz Haq said...

Three women boxers from #Pakistan competing in #SouthAsianGames2016 in #India …

Three Pakistani women boxers - Khoushleem Bano, Rukhsana Parveen and Sofia Javed - are on the verge of scripting history on Indian soil, when they step into the ring for the very first time.

The three pugilists credited the biographical sports film on five-time world champion and Indian boxing icon Mary Kom as the biggest influence which has inspired them to take up a career in boxing.
"We have been watching Mary Kom and it (movie) has really influenced us," the trio, donning their tracksuits with the Pakistani flag embroidered on it, told IANS.
However, the young Pakistani boxers admitted that it was not an easy journey for them initially, when they informed their family and friends about their decision to take up boxing.
"There are a lot of anti-groups who don't accept us. Initially, even our family and friends were not happy with us. But now everyone is supporting, be it our government or the boxing federation," Khoushleem said.
In fact, the trio picked up boxing only in the early part of 2015 and were trained by their coach Nauman Karim - a bronze medallist at the 2003 World Boxing Championship - at Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar for the multi-national sports event.
"We stepped into the boxing ring just eight months ago. I know it will be tough to fight with an experienced boxer like Mary Kom and others, but our coaches have trained us well to fight in the ring," Khoushleem said.
But the 23-year-old, who hails from the scenic valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan, is eagerly looking forward to meeting Mary Kom in the boxing ring.
"I know it will be tough to fight with an experienced boxer like Mary Kom. But I am sure I will learn a lot from her in the boxing ring," Khoushleem who will be competing in the fly-weight (51kg) category, said.
Rukhsana, who was member of the Pakistan World Cup Kabaddi team which won a bronze medal in Punjab in 2014, said, "After having learnt that Pakistan has no woman boxer, I took up the challenge to fight in the boxing ring."
"The movie Mary Kom has motivated me to take up this challenge. Insha Allah (If God's willing) you never know we might go back home with a medal from here," the 60kg category pugilist from Multan said.
Sofia Javed, who also made a reference to Mary Kom, said, "I am very happy to be in India and to make our international debut here. We have been practicing hard for more than a year for this event."
Crediting her coach and family members for all their support, the 20-year-old from the Peshawar said, "We are all happy to make our debut here in India. I am mentally prepared for the competition and optimistic to get a medal for our people of Pakistan."
The trio also foresee that women's boxing will progress in Pakistan with people supporting them for taking up the challenge to wear the gloves which were once only worn by male boxers in their country.
"Women's boxing will surely progress by leaps and bound in Pakistan. A lot of people have helped us. Our government, boxing federation and our coaches have assisted us with an open heart to fulfill our dreams," Rukhsana said.
Appreciating the Pakistani women boxers for being influenced by her biography, Mary Kom asked Khoushleem, Rukhsana, and Sofia to "keep fighting and never give up halfway". She also hoped that the three Pakistani ladies will do well on their international debut.
"They need more motivation. If they need my help they can always come to my (boxing) academy (at Manipur)," the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan airline ‘pilot sisters’ make cockpit history by flying Boeing 777 as Captain & Co-pilot #WomensEqualityDay

Maryam Masood and Erum Masood made history on Tuesday as they flew the coveted Boeing-777 aircraft to several local and international destinations concurrently, Express News reported.

The two sisters flew the plane concurrently from Lahore to Karachi, Manchester, New York and London.

The duo was able to turn their dream into reality after the younger sister Irum recently got her license to travel along her elder sibling.

It is reportedly for the first time in the country’s, in fact South Asian history that two real sisters captained a plane such as the Boeing to operate several flights together.

However, Pakistani women have earned honours for the country in the airline chapter, earlier as well.

In November last year, 24-year-old Flying Officer of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Marium Mukhtar was martyred when her training aircraft crashed near Mianwali.

In 2006, seven women broke into one of the country’s most exclusive male clubs to graduate as fighter pilots — perhaps the most prestigious job in the powerful military and for six decades closed to them.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: Women trained in motorcycling for mobility as part of government-supported program @AJEnglish

Women in Pakistan are getting on their bikes in a bid overcome the barriers that limit their mobility and ultimately widen economic and gender inequalities.

Under Women on Wheels, a government-supported project, 35 women who had been trained to ride motorcycles participated in a rally on Tuesday in the city of Sargodha, in Punjab province.

Launched in January this year, the initiative encourages women to become independent, and reduce their reliance on male relatives for day-to-day activities, as well as getting to school, college or work.

Tuesday's event was attended by Ingrid Johansson, the Swedish ambassador, representatives from UN Women Pakistan, local police and provincial officials.

The rally resulted in a rare sight. It is something of a taboo for women to ride motorcycles in Pakistan, a common form of transport for men, in cities and the countryside.

As dozens of women raced through the district in the Punjab on their motorcycles, their message was clear: We will be independent.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s girl cadets in the military dream of taking power. #Women

At a revolutionary school in Pakistan, Durkhanay Banuri dreams of becoming military chief, once a mission impossible for girls in a patriarchal country where the powerful army has a severe problem with gender equity.
Thirteen-year-old Durkhanay, a student at Pakistan’s first ever Girls’ Cadet College, established earlier this year in the deeply conservative northwest, brims with enthusiasm and confidence as she sketches out her life plan.
“I want to be the army chief,” she tells AFP. “Why not? When a woman can be prime minister, foreign minister and governor of the State Bank, she can also be chief of the army staff ... I will make it possible and you will see.”
The dreams of many women in the region were once limited to merely leaving the house.
Durkhanay and her 70 classmates in Mardan, a town in militancy-hit Khyber Pakthunkhwa (KP) province roughly 110 kilometers (70 miles) from Islamabad, are aiming much higher.
Cadet colleges in Pakistan, which are run by the government with officers from the military’s education branch, strive to prepare bright male students for the armed forces and civil services.
Their graduates are usually given preference for selection to the army, which in Pakistan can mean their future is secured: they are likely to be granted land and will benefit from the best resources and training in the country.
As a result such colleges play an outsized role in Pakistan’s education system, which has been woefully underfunded for decades.
According to a 2016 government study, a staggering 24 million Pakistani children are out of school, with a larger share of girls staying home than boys — 12.8 million compared to 11.2 million.
Hundreds of boys study at the cadet colleges across the country.
But girls are still not allowed in these elite schools, with the special college at Mardan the one exception.
“Such colleges can help girls qualify to be part of the armed forces, foreign service, civil services or become engineers and doctors,” said retired Brig. Naureen Satti, underscoring their importance in the long fight for equality by Pakistan’s women.
In starched khaki uniforms and red berets Durkhanay and her classmates march the parade ground, stepping to the beat of a barking drill instructor, before racing to change into physical training and martial arts kits.
The military is widely seen as Pakistan’s most powerful institution, and has ruled the country for roughly half of its 70-year history. Under the current civilian government it is believed to control defense and foreign policy.
Women, however, have largely been shut out — par for the course in a country routinely ranked among the world’s most misogynistic, and where they have fought for their rights for decades.
Previously they were only allowed to serve in administrative posts. But military dictator Pervez Musharraf opened up the combat branches of the army, navy and air force to women beginning in 2003.
The military would not disclose how many of its members, which a 2015 Credit Suisse report said number more than 700,000 active personnel, are currently women.
But a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity that at least 4,000 are now believed to be serving in the armed forces.
He gave no further details, and it is unclear how far the women have managed to foray from their administrative past, though some have managed to become high profile role models — including, notably, Ayesha Farooq, who in 2013 became Pakistan’s first ever female fighter pilot.
The Girls’ Cadet College principal, retired brigadier Javid Sarwar, vowed his students would be prepared for whatever they wanted to do, “including the armed forces.”

Riaz Haq said...

An Excerpt of Oprah Winfrey's Speech at the Golden Globes

The actor and entrepreneur spoke about the #MeToo movement while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes.

it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia and engineering and medicine and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.

Riaz Haq said...

Inspiring Story of "Ustad" Rozina Naz: A homeless #Pakistani #woman who went from living in abandoned bus in #Karachi to painting highway trucks. #art #TruckArt

Rozina Naz, a single mother with two children, paints trucks and buses in a small settlement on the outskirts of Karachi
The truck artist says her profession has brought back color into her life
KARACHI: Two decades ago, an abandoned old bus that stood on top of a mound of scrap was home to Rozina Naz and her two children. Today, she is an accomplished artist, known as Ustad Rozi Khan, who paints buses and trucks in the very same neighborhood on the outskirts of Karachi.

Newly widowed and homeless 19 years ago, Naz had moved her family into the old bus, taking up odd jobs to feed herself and her children. But it was when she began visiting a painter’s shop years later, that she realized buses like her home could be her canvas.

“When my husband died, I had no one by my side and was all alone. I spotted a bus that stood on a heap of scrap and started living there with my two children,” she told Arab News at the Mawach Goth bus stand on Saturday.

Naz kept up with different odd jobs and the routine continued well after she was able to move out of the bus into a real home.

“I didn’t give up,” she said. “I was thinking, this time will pass too. I didn’t want to spread my hands in front of anyone.”

Her life changed when she began visiting a painter’s shop to unwind and read newspapers after a hard day’s work.

“The owner of the shop had two or three students,” she said. “When they left for home, he would put their wages in their hands.”

“I thought, this is a good way to earn a living.”

Naz was good at drawing in school and she put these skills to work painting trucks, a popular form of art decoration native to South Asia which features elaborate florals, calligraphy, landscapes and poetry painted on large cargo trucks in vivid colors.

The trucks, which colorfully dot inter-city highways, are painted almost exclusively by men in Pakistan.

“Many people would say: ‘You’re a woman and this line of work is not meant for you,’” she said.

“But I told them, it’s just another form of work and it has nothing to do with my gender.”

“If someone makes these statements, I don’t pay attention and continue to do my work,” she said. “I only think of my children.”

Now, armed with her paint buckets, Naz goes about her day on a motorcycle she bought on installments.

“My life became colorful when I started painting,” Naz said. “I fell in love with colors.”

“It’s been 19 years since I started using this brush. I still work in this small neighborhood, but I can sketch any design,” she continued proudly.