Women life in rural Pakistan

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Woman has always been an object of suppression in underdeveloped countries but their rural areas are much ahead in this aspect. Being deprived of the basic amenities of life due to state failure, rural people find solace in self interpreted religious doctrines which promise them a reward for all worldly pain in heaven. All religious doctrines meant for happier and successful life turned haunting the lives of innocent people; woman is one among them. She is considered a sacrificial cow that renders services to father, brother and then husband. A closer look at the life of a rural girl would reveal that she spends first 15 years learning household chores at her home and the rest life in practicing them at in-laws.

Proposals are given on the basis of obedience to the family members and strict obedience of cultural values. A girl who did not serve her family all the times or stepped out of home is considered worth killing. Once married, another set of code of conduct is waiting for her. She has to wake up early in the morning and keep water in front of the doors of all family members to make ablution. She often spares her own prayer out of the fear that males may come back from mosque and tea may not be prepared on time.

A girl who fed her family with delicious dishes and large round breads bigger than her own arms is considered worth living with in-laws, otherwise she is either sent back to parents or her partner remarries thus giving her a secondary position in his life. Here again self interpreted religious doctrines play their role when males are always in search of an opportunity to marry four women in total considering it as their divine right. If a woman could not produce children at all or a male issue, she has to bear the brunt of cruelty though the problem may lie in her male partner. Similarly, the number of children and that of male issues is also worth importance in her life. If she could not produce fifteen children in total and half of them boys, she is taunted for the whole of her life for being unproductive. Now the question arises that does a man marry a woman for reproduction only? If yes then does the problem lie with woman only or cultural values don’t allow holding a male accountable for being unproductive.

Injustice to woman in rural areas starts with her very birth when father fires on the birth of a male child to inform entire village and invites them for a feast but hides here and there in case of the birth of a female child unless she grows up and shows her worth in the form of obedience to cultural values. I wonder as to why would a father be ashamed of the birth of a girl who serves and respects him while take pride in the birth of a boy who is always a source of constant trouble. Here Machiavelli, a Greek philosopher was right to state that man by nature is very selfish and greedy. Men in rural areas are preferred only because they add to family income.

A landlord or a very rich person bravely asks his daughters to be “Satti”; a local term used for a woman who doesn’t marry and declares that she has been married to Holy Quran. This is a practice to avoid division of property among daughters and its immediate transfer to her in-laws. Contrarily, a poor man marries his daughters as soon as possible taking the help of religion that unmarried young girl is a source of tribulation for the entire family thus avoiding his responsibility of feeding her for long.

The story does not end here, when a woman becomes a widow, she is forced to marry someone within the same family whether there is a single boy or not. In this case she has to suffer double pain in the form of becoming and then marrying her already married brother in-law. She becomes a constant object of the wrath of her new husband’s earlier wife and that of his mother who thinks that it was the girl’s bad luck that took the life of her son. Islam, the religion followed by these people gives freedom to woman to either marry or not and to marry any one she likes but cultural values have barred her from exercising this right’s I never witnessed a single case where a woman used her right of “khula”; divorce taken by woman in case she cannot live a happy life with her husband. Divorce is considered a prerogative of a man only who can take a woman out of his life on petty issues.

The only factor responsible for the deprivation of woman in rural areas is lack of education and negligence. Just like a landlord does not let common people achieve education out of the fear that his unbridled powers will be challenged, males do the same to females. The only factor responsible for the deprivation of woman in rural areas is lack of education and negligence. Just like a landlord does not let common people achieve education out of the fear that his unbridled powers will be challenged, males do the same to females. Education is vital for promotion of human rights, controlling poverty, empowering women and protecting children from exploitation. A literate nation has better economic prospects as compared to illiterate and children of educated parents are more likely to be prepared for a better life.  My Master’s thesis “Role of NGOs in promoting education; a case study of Pishin” revealed the following reasons behind unsatisfactory performance of NGOs in achieving Millennium Development goals. Pishin, a district of Balochistan province, constitutes a small fraction of the total population of Pakistan. Therefore, it is difficult for government to set up schools in far flung and sparsely populated areas.

The scarce population, traditional socio-economic setup and gender disparity are some of the factors behind low literacy level. The literacy rate among women is worst in the province. There are total 911 schools out of which 665 are for boys and 246 are for girls. The literacy rate of district Pishin is 31% out of which 19.25% is male literacy rate while 12.15% is female literacy rate, Moreover; it is a traditional society with many social and cultural taboos which become a hurdle for change.  Role of different NGOs was analyzed among which National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Save the Children, UNDP and UNICEF provided funds and assistance while the four concerned NGOs; WESS, BEF, SOCIETY and PIDS established schools.

All these NGOs aim to strengthen base for primary education through increased enrolment, reduce gender disparity and improve teacher performance but they could not attain their objectives due to the highly scattered demography and influx of Afghan refugees in the province. This has made provision of education to every child a very challenging task. There has been low primary school enrolment, lack of access to secondary education, gender discrimination and a shortage of both middle and secondary schools due to which most students fail to continue further studies.

Government ought to concentrate on the development of rural areas in general and women in particular. Provision of quality and timely education can help woman contribute in national development and dispel the tradition values. Women constitute more than half of the population and education can turn them to a productive force for this fledgling economy. It may be difficult for government to provide facilities and infrastructure to sparsely populated areas but it can collaborate and cooperate with NGOs in terms of providing them protection and land for schools.

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