Category Archives: Women

How we learn

By Zubeida Mustafa

A HEFTY sum of over a trillion rupees has been earmarked for education collectively in the federal and provincial budgets for 2021-2022 that were announced in June. This amount has been growing over the years. But this massive financial investment in human resources has not produced the impact that could have rationally been expected on the learning outcomes of children in Pakistan. This has been confirmed year after year by Aser (Annual Status of Education Report).

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The way forward

By Zubeida Mustafa

UNESCO’S constitution in its preamble declares: “Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” In the feminist context it should read that the defences of women’s rights against patriarchy need to be constructed in the minds of the women who are the most oppressed and exploited. That should be the immediate goal of the feminist movement in Pakistan.

The fact is that the state of women reflects best what author Kazim Saeed titles his book, Dou Pakistan. We have had a female prime minister, a young girl as a Nobel laureate, female pilots, mountaineers, millions of women teachers and highly qualified doctors and so on.

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Sordid business

By Zubeida Mustafa

FOR 20 years, the US State Department has been annually documenting the efforts — or the lack thereof — of governments to check trafficking in persons (TIP) that has become a massive crime worldwide over the years. The major success it has achieved so far is in creating public awareness about this abominable issue. In some cases, it has managed to get governments to legislate on the matter in a bid to check the prevalence of the crime.

The TIP situation in Pakistan is horrifying for two reasons. First is its extraordinary rise in the two categories covered by the US report, namely, kidnapping for bonded labour and for trading girls in prostitution.

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Brave women

By Zubeida Mustafa

CONVENTIONALLY women are referred to as weak and fickle. They are also dubbed as cowardly. But all these labels have been given by men in a patriarchal society. It is unfortunate that many women have internalised these qualities and thus reinforce the male perception. One has to be grateful for those fearless women — whose numbers are now growing — who continue to defy the stereotypical image to keep reminding society that women are inherently strong and resilient and are capable of meeting the most difficult of challenges they face.

Last week, we were reminded of this truth when Khairo Dero, a village in Sindh, experienced a harrowing incident. I feel a sense of belonging when it comes to Khairo Dero, and the news of the attack on Ramz Ali literally shook me. Ramz is the project manager of the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust that Naween Mangi has set up to promote the development of this small and charming goth in district Larkana.

Ramz is the gentle and kind and honest-to-the-core soul who runs the various projects of the Trust with a firm and efficient hand. Ramz is also the father of my best friend in Khairo Dero, four-year-old Sitara.

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Floyd and Zohra

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE BBC reported recently that a lawyer for George Floyd said at the memorial service for the African-American that a “pandemic of racism” led to his death. Floyd had been killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis using the ‘knee-on-the-neck’ technique said to have been developed by Israeli policemen.

Judging by the global protests that followed Floyd’s killing one can at least take heart from the fact that there are people around who have a conscience and do care. But what matters is how many people can be mobilised and how much they care. Is their number big enough to make an impact that will bring about the social change that is needed? Changes in the law help but they are at best just the beginning. More difficult to change are attitudes and mindsets without which society remains mired in prejudice and an abusive psyche.

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The missing girls

By Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE 1986, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has acted as a conscience keeper of the nation. Its flagship, the annual State of Human Rights in Pakistan, should jolt any government out of its stupor.

How did this government respond to the latest report? The human rights ministry, headed by Shireen Mazari, had a knee-jerk reaction and apparently without reading the report carefully issued a statement accusing the HRCP of having “overlooked several major milestones towards securing and safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups” in 2019. It even questioned the ‘intent’ of the HRCP.

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Saving mothers

By Zubeida Mustafa

TWENTY years ago, nearly 400 mothers out of 100,000 giving birth in Pakistan died. This phenomenon, referred to as the maternal mortality rate, has come down to 178 per 100,000 today. This is remarkable progress when seen in our own context. One may attribute this to better childbirth practices and immunisation of expectant mothers.

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Fighting harassment

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE theme of Tehreek-i-Niswan’s fourth Peace Table held a fortnight ago was sexual harassment. This was very timely. #MeToo has made a controversial debut in the country with no consensus on the issue. As a television actor aptly said, “Women in our society remain united when it comes to keeping their mouth shut, and are divided when they speak up.”

The country now has a law in place, Protection of Women against Harassment at the Workplace. Yet women are hesitant to step forward and speak of their personal experiences. Our patriarchal culture, a flawed law and a weak machinery for implementation put women on the defensive. While some respond meekly, others give vent to their anger (usually on social media) to lash out at their oppressors. Continue reading Fighting harassment

The double disadvantage for girls

ONE of the worst blows the state has inflicted on the citizens of Pakistan is to deny education to a huge chunk of them. For girls this has been a double blow. They have suffered on two counts. First, the state’s apathy has resulted in the non-availability of accessible, affordable and quality education for all. Secondly, girls have also suffered because of society’s gender prejudices that have made education out of reach for many girls. Continue reading The double disadvantage for girls