2015 essay contest honorable mention
WOMEN AS CITIZENS OF PAKISTAN
by Shafa Kahn
11th grader, Beaconhouse School, Pakistan
In the male dominant society of Pakistan, women and girls face serious challenges and problems. One of the most serious challenges, however, is their right to participate as a citizen of Pakistan. Citizenship is the combination of duties, obligations and rights that define a single person of a community.
The decision making participation in local communities and government is mostly in the hands of men hence, women get fewer chances to participate in the country’s politics. Out of the 343 seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan, women occupy only 50. Moreover, 2012’s elections saw 86.3 million registered voters and only 37.7 million were women. This is mainly because our society considers decision making to be a “men’s job”.
Moving on, control over cash resources and equal access to it is a major right of every woman as a citizen and part of a community. As per National PDHS 2012-‐ 2013 out of the total women who earn money for the family only 51.7% are able to make their decisions themselves about their earnings whereas 35% are decided together with their husbands and 9.7% have their husbands, alone, decide. These are alarming figures as it shows men, in a huge number, deprive women the right over something they earn. Married men claim they have a right over what their wives earn and they are not questionable to anyone, so they don’t think its something wrong.
Another disturbing fact is, domestic violence against women. What’s more frightful is its implications. Children learn this from their elders and then do the same with sisters. In addition to that, it affects their growth and they don’t consider violence as wrong. This also leads to a huge number of women considering their husband beating them as their right. Around 42.5% of the married women and 34% of married men mainly gave 6 reasons for beatings: burning the food, arguing with husband, going out without permission, neglecting children, refusing to have sexual intercourse, and neglecting the in-laws. Overall, 32.2% women in Pakistan claim to have experienced physical violence, hence, 1 in 3 women in Pakistan are victims of violence and in most areas of Pakistan, victims of emotional violence too.
Lastly and the most important right as a citizen Pakistani women get less opportunities in is education. According to PSL (Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey) 2013, only 45% females 15 or older are literate as compared to 69% males. Furthermore, the gross percentage enrollment of children aged between 14 and 15 is divided to 65% males and 48% females. Education is the most basic and important right of every child, but Pakistan’s Gender Parity Index states otherwise. At primary level it is 0.86 and at secondary, 0.7, stating that for every 100 boys in primary school, there are 86 girls and 70 girls for every 100 boys on secondary level. The main reasons behind this issue are parents’ thinking and accessibility. A lot of parents think it’s not necessary for girls to attend school, especially after primary level.
”I’ve studied till the 5th grade. Middle school is too far and it’s not possible to walk and go there alone”-‐ A girl from Diamer Gilgit. According to Ailf Ailaan Out of School Statistics 2013/2014, more than 55% are girls.
As we can see, these issues deprive women to be a good and active part of our society and country as citizens. Most of these problems are based on wrong thinking of men and elders and looking at women in a wrong way. People need to be taught the importance of women in our society and their rights. Majority of Pakistan’s population is Muslim and Islam gives all the important rights to women, so religion can be used to convey the message to people. By the same token, we can use seminars, workshop, newspapers, TV, radios and all other means possible to point out to people where they are wrong when it comes to treating women in their family and country. Awareness needs to be created in men as well as women. This could lead to women becoming more important and better citizens and a decrease in the problems they face.