Women in Pakistan can be empowered through education which in turn would encourage them and give them confidence to take up professions.
Ameena Saiyid, managing director of the Oxford University Press in Pakistan, stressed this during her talk on ‘Female Empowerment in Pakistan’ at the Sharjah International Book Fair on Friday.
She said greater empowerment and leadership roles are usually tied to a more widespread and better education. “In Pakistan, the level of women’s education is very low, partly due to poverty and partly owing to the discriminatory traditions, which favour education for boys over education for girls. This is strikingly true in the rural areas.”
According to Saiyid, urban poor, many of whom are immigrants from rural areas, are becoming conscious of the need to educate their daughters and this changing attitude reflected in the higher literacy rate among urban girls.
She said that Pakistan’s system of education, which is retrogressive, has posed difficulties to the great number of girls in school going age to be in school. “Almost 20 million of our 60 million children, majority of them are girls, do not go to school. Government must focus on educating girls and only then can women improve their situation.”
She also said consciousness among girls and women of their right to education is rising, albeit slowly. Malala Yousufzai is an example of a Pakistani girl who will no longer brook such dispossession and will stand up to her right no matter what. “There are many Malalas nowadays.
“Pakistani women do not only want to be educated but also want to take up jobs,” she said pinpointing that more young women have opted to work rather than get married immediately upon graduation.
The lady publisher said that she prefers to publish writers without gender discrimination but said that the lack of empowerment has affected Pakistani women in every sphere and literature is no exception. “While women in the West have gained confidence and earned the licence to write about what they like, women writers in Pakistan are generally inhibited because of traditions in which they have been brought up.”
She cited some Paksitani women writers, who have made great strides like Khalida Husain, Saira Shagufta, Maki Kureishi, Kishwar Naheed, Sara Suleri and Talat Abbasi. “All these writers have unforgettably added the feminine experience to the body of Pakistani literature either in English or in Urdu.”
She said the empowerment of women in Pakistan has trod a painful course with every small victory snatched with hardened prejudices. “Working women here are still pioneers because internal inequalities of power, authority and resource allocation still remain in many families,” she said.