Are we doing all that we can to stop violence against women?
I was taught to live in fear—fear of the world that lay beyond the four walls of my house. But wait! This is not just my story— this is the story of countless women residing in Pakistan— the fourth most dangerous place in the world for females. With a soaring rate of violence against women, in 2016 the most populous of our provinces Punjab saw a 17% rise in rape cases and a 28% increase in honour killings, according to the Punjab gender parity report 2017. The report also stated that out of the abduction cases reported 76% were were those of women, making kidnapping the most chronic crime against females in Punjab. In spite of these perturbing statistics, it grieves me to say this that these are just a few of the many vices females are faced with in our society.
Many people abroad usually associate the plight of Pakistani women with religious oppression, but the reality is much more complicated. We as a nation have spent decades constructing elaborate systems of patriarchy, caste and social and sexual inequality which have allowed vices such as rape, harassment and violence to flourish. Women are subordinated and forced to live in a system that defines them by the male figures in their lives, even if they are the breadwinners of their families.
Being a young girl living in such an environment I have closely felt the pain most females must endure today. Ever since I began understanding the world around me the constant fear of being assaulted, harassed and maltreated has always milled about the periphery of my life. Most women in my country yield before such atrocities; they accept these abysmal conditions as their fates. But even as child I could not accept this as my destiny. I knew that all women could work wonders if they were given the opportunity to do so. With this belief, I decided to improve the conditions of females in our society, to to give them freedom, and to eliminate their fears by making this country a safer place for them. I knew that this was the change I desperately wanted to make.
When I decided that this was the purpose and ambition of my life, I knew that I was in for a tough ride. I was aware that the that the battle against the deep rooted patriarchal system would bring never ending obstacles along with it. But this never deterred me. I began using writing as a platform to voice my message to the world. Slowly and steadily, women empowerment became the subject matter of several of my articles. My heart would fill with joy every time I was applauded for my efforts, but this joy was not due to the appreciation I was receiving. Deep down I knew that no matter how minute the impact may be, every time a person found the truth in my words their mindset was influenced. They were urged to feel for the women in our country and this was exactly the kind of ‘influence’ I was in pursuit of.
However, apart from writing, taking practical initiative was also imperative for the development of this cause. For this purpose I established my own initiative called Project Smile. Although it is currently in its formative stages, I aim to launch a programme purely for women welfare. Through this I will conduct awareness sessions for women and girls. However, my primary focus would be targeting the mindset of young boys through these sessions. By sowing the seeds of equality in their minds at a tender age we can, if not completely eliminate, reduce the intensity of patriarchal beliefs in future generations.
These are some of the ways through which I think we can bring this change in to existence. However, we still have a long way to go. Although I have done nothing commendable for women in our society but my purpose behind sharing this is to stress on the fact that change is only possible if we women wake up and stand up for ourselves. No one else is going to take the initiative; the first move has to be ours. I am not implying that all of us should start welfare programs for women but the least we can do is start saying no to oppression and believe me it is not that hard if you try to be strong. Therefore I implore all the women reading my words to stop playing the victim and become the fighter; we have long been subject to subordination but not any more.We as a nation are no where near a safer future for females in our community, and to change this it is imperative for the society as well as us women to realise the gravity of the issue. Only practical efforts on our part can make a difference and there is no time better than now to start.
By Emaan Mujahid