Uncounted Contribution

Hamid Ali Soomro;

Women form half the population of Pakistan, but their hard work is often not   acknowledged. Rural women work from dawn to dusk. Besides working in the field, they have to take care of children, rare livestock, cooking, washing and a host of other errands. But for their immense contribution, what does she get as the reward? Is it beatings from husbands and other male family members? Women have no say in decision making, no property rights and no control over their earnings from handcrafts or other supplementary income sources that they solely contribute to.Similarly, despite the relatively high literacy rate, urban women also suffer the same kind of discrimination and no acknowledgment of their contribution in-home’s income and national economy is recognized. If a girl is studying, she has to do all household chores, whereas boys from the same family enjoy the privileges of entirely focusing on their studies. In the majority of cases professional working women, after performing their professional duties have to do all household chores. No matter how tough her job is, how much tried and exhausted she comes, how much she is in a hurry to join her duty in the morning, but she has to cook food, prepare children for school, and washcloths, clean the house and take care of whole home including taking care of elderly family members.This is all about outdated traditions and gifts of male-dominated feudalist-minded society and trappings of capitalists’ economy. It is considered against the honor and esteem of male family members to take water from the pot. In the rural setting of Sindh, some men do not do any work in the field or do any business. They go to nearby towns or sub-town in the morning and after loitering the whole day and sitting idle in hotels, they return home late at night. The women who are extremely tired due to toiling for 20 hours or more and in deep sleep are woken up when they return late at night. It is a tradition that women must serve food to male members, so the tired women wake up and serve food to the man. A friend from a rural village background shared a real incident. He said that it was tradition in his village that women need regular drubbing on a daily basis by male family members to keep them under control. It was believed and is still a strong belief that if women did not get a constant thrashing, they would spoil up and would not oblige the men. Men folks have to work in the field and during off seasons either they sit at home or in village autak (male gueste and rest house in the village). It is taboo for a male member to take even a glass of water from a pitcher and women have to serve water, food, tea at the bedstead to the men. Even during the off-crop season when all men were free, women besides all backbreaking work at home had to fetch grass for livestock, wood for fire, water from wells, they also to cook extra food for guests or travelers who arrived in large numbers throughout the day and sometimes arrived late at night. That friend further shared that being part of that anti-women culture, he acted according to village tradition and indulged in violence against women in his family. “I got chance to work in a women right nongovernmental organization and after realizing that violence against women is a harmful practice and decided to treat women in his family equally and extended helping hand to my wife in her household chores. As I was living in a rural village where strong old misogynic traditions prevailed, I have to face a lot of resistance and derision for crossing the red line. Once my wife fell seriously ill. She was trembling with a high fever and little children were crying for food. I took up pots and started kneading flour and ignited the fireplace to cook food. On seeing this whole village gathered, they started laughing and making fun of me for cooking food. They stormed my wife’s room and directed a volley of curses against the ill woman saying “its doomsday that husband is cooking food”. Despite my pleas, what is the harm in helping my ailing wife, women and men from the village rejecting all my logic and please continuing cursing my wife and jarring at me.Skilled and unskilled female labor is paid less than men. Be it the private sector, agriculture, industry and other service sector segments, women are paid less but they work more diligently and dedicatedly than men.A lot of high paid sectors are taboo for women. Generally, typical employment areas for women are teaching, garments, nursing etc. Police, Army, civil aviation and civil services are considered a male domain. However, in recent decades women are making inroads in the above sectors previously exclusive to women. But their number in gainful employment is like a drop in the sea.Our national male-dominated culture, reflected in our collected thinking and practices as well as our education system, glorifies male dominance. In our textbooks, literature, mainstream media and traditional national discourse ideal woman’s place is in four walls of the home. Procreating children and upbringing them, submission to husband and other male members is considered the best quality of a woman. The working women are detested, denigrated and frowned up by society. As the world around us has changed a lot and winds of more rapid changes in gender roles are blowing all around, we should not lag behind. Those countries and societies that accord equal rights and space to women in all fields of lives have progressed in leaps and bounds.In Pakistan, the gender discrimination status quo must change if we have to leapfrog development and catch up with a fast-changing World. Examples of societies and nations who acknowledged women’s contribution in the national economy and polity have touched heights of progress This, modern era of information technology and globalized economy demand full utilization of human resources be it men, women or transgender. If we continue to discriminate against women on just behalf of their gender and unrecognized their contribution to our economy, we will continue to lag behind as Quid-e-Azam said: no nation can rise to the height of glory unless their women are side by side with them.

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