2015 essay contest honorable mention



by Natasha Khan

11th grader, Beaconhouse School, Pakistan


What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls in your country today?


Freedom. The freedom to live. Something most of us take for granted. The women in my country fight battles everyday to earn their basic rights. It is not unfair that they are made to strive for something that is served on a platter to most people? Not only are they deprived of their rights but they are also totured and violated. This is the greatest struggle that our women go through on a daily basis. 


In Pakistan, males are considered an asset while females, a burden. From the moment a girl enters this world, her battle for survival commences. The household she has 'cursed' upon her existence, often receives sympathy from the community and remarks like "maybe next time you will be blessed with a son" or "God must be displeased with you". Does being a female really make you incapable as a human being? A boy is a blessing but a girl is a tragedy. Why does that make so much sense to our people? 


It may seem like I'm speaking in conventional terms and this mindset no longer exists. However, from the poorest of backgrounds to the elitist of classes, no woman belonging to any group in Pakistan can call herself truly free. This is because even though the wording may be different, but all women are forced to bend down in front of the patriarchal structure of the society that exists here. In the rural areas, women are like free domestic workers for their husbands and sons. What's sad is, the women never even question it. It's like their thought bubble is restricted from living in a cage all the time. They are taught to believe that men are superior and there's a certain way that they are meant to live their lives. Even if they have dreams and aspirations, they choose to accept reality and conform to social norms as they know there is no way out for them. They face all kinds of abuse. Their free will is taken away. 


In urban areas which are comparatively more 'modernistic,' the situation is no different. Instead of telling their sons to behave, parents often take their anger out on their daughters for provoking the son. By unequal distribution of freedom, allowing boys to go out at different hours and that too alone, while the girls can barely step out of their homes during midday, further instills the belief that men are superior. Slowly, women begin to accept that they cannot change these facts, they console themselves into believing that they in their own way, are free. This is how they slowly die. Not physically but the light of their soul begins to dim. That is when they lose their purpose. At that moment, they are no longer women but just ordinary human beings. For me, a woman is someone so charismatic and emotionally powerful that its blinding to the eye. I have come across many women in Pakistan who fought to survive as women and that is what makes me proud of my kind. These women who strive and don't give up on their dreams are what women should really be like. To have the power to defeat your greatest challenge is what I wish for myself and the others in my country to have.