Archive for July, 2006

Majority Looses?

How do we teach our children the meaning of ‘democracy’?

A telling visual from UK’s The Independent on the standoff in the Middle East.

Independent Graphic

Also posted in the 3 Quarks Daily filter blog

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The State of Pakistani Women

In recent weeks I have come across a blog which has really captivated my attention, as well as over 17,000+ other ‘bloggers’ since it’s first post on June 12, 2006.  The blog is managed by Adil Najam, called: All Things Pakistan (ATP), where his posts range from reports on the national past time of cricket, to politics, society-at-large, music, food, culture, and all the good, bad, beautiful and ugly, which makes up all things ‘Pakistani’. It is amazing how his idea has transformed into a lively platform for diverse and open discussion on a wide range of topics by Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis coming from all walks of life.  Thank you, Mr. Najam.

tarazoo.gifOn a recent post entitled: ATP Poll: Pakistan’s Image and Women’s Rights, I found some of the questions he asked to be a step in the right direction as far as making his blog more inclusive of a large segment of Pakistan’s society (women), whose plight is often not part of everyday discussion or discourse.  The main gist of the poll asked: “[W]hat can be done to improve Pakistan’s International image in terms of women’s rights?”.  What was even more interesting were several insightful comments left by visitors of his blog.  While I agreed with what many were saying with regard to how the image of women in Pakistan needs to be ‘improved’ and that certain reforms need to be made, I felt the poll did not adequately represent the larger segment of Pakistan’s female population who are in essence the most oppressed and underrepresented: the urban poor and rural, tribal women. More importantly, perhaps we need to be more concerned with can and should be done to help the plight of women and others who are neglected in our society, as opposed to being worried about how the West or outside world perceives us.

Here is my rather lengthy ‘comment’ which I posted to ATP:

The fundamental human rights of women and how they are perceived and treated in a predominately patriarchal society are at the core of the question on ‘how to improve’ the image and more so the condition (as you, Adil, even felt was the better question to ask) of women’s rights and how they may be perceived globally. Apologies in advance if I seem to stray from the essence of your poll, but I feel I must express in greater detail! Harping on the image issue is not the reason why women’s rights should be improved.  Improving the ‘image’, however defined, will not make the inadequate & unrealized rights of women in Pakistan disappear.  Mountains have to be moved.

The Image Issue

The question I ask, is what is the image that we want to portray of Pakistan and the status and plight of those women?  And again, from which segment of society, are these women who’s image needs to be promoted?  Do we want to promote how the educated class of women (so many of us now educated in the UK and US) are working side by side with their male counterparts in high profile banking, marketing, and industry professions with much greater access today?  Of course, no doubt, it is a good way to publicize to the world at large that Pakistan is able to churn out female prime ministers, internationally acclaimed women artists, female fighter pilots, fashion designers, cardiologists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs – and that the Pakistani middle and upper classes are more westernized and progressive now.  But I feel the question of image also should more broadly include the underrepresented, urban poor and rural, feudal communities, where this wave of modernity and gender equality has yet to hit!  Would it be safe to say that there are, in essence, 2 worlds, 2 Pakistans?  The image of women repressed by patriarchy, conducting their daily lives under the so called ‘veil’ and oppression, whilst being victimized by unjust Islamic rules, is probably the one we should be more concerned about.  That is not to say that sexism is rampant amongst the professional class, as the Dawn Ad illustrated.  But is that not the case in even European and other western societies?  Women at work are subject to that day in and out in varying degrees and subtleties.  The plight of women like Mukhtar Mai or female child brides for that matter, is what we really need to focus on, as far as ‘improving their condition’ is concerned –.  It took a NY Times journalist to bring Mukhtar Mai to the International media arena, forcing the government and President to have to deal with this ‘national shame’ by confiscating Mukhtar Mai’s passport & putting her on a ‘no exit list’, so that she would not leave the country to further ‘tarnish’ Pakistan’s image internationally.  (I am not sure if such eye-opening news reports would either contribute to or take away from items: 1, 3 & 4 listed in your Poll Question!) If this kind of press is given in the international arena, then perhaps it may put governments to shame and finally force them to act?   

Anyway, here are a few mountains… 

Education

Agreeably, like many who have thus far commented, education, that is, equal access and delivery of that education to girls, is a must.  Sadly, we are not even close to that target, let alone overall literacy.  Educating girls, will educate the next generation and in turn will teach the sons of those women how to respect women and show how important their mother’s education, vocation and worth is in their families.  So you ask, what ought to be done?  Well, for those of us who are privileged and are able to afford it: donate generously to NGO’s which support the education of children, especially young girls.  Since governments (and not just Pakistan’s’, but many of the world’s underdeveloped governments) are unable to provide this basic ‘right’ and public service, it falls on the abled citizens and expatriates of Pakistan to fill this gaping void, by outsourcing this job to the private organizations who can deliver tangible results with a higher rate of return.  

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An Unlikely Rescue?

Since I am guilty of not having posted in many moons, I figured a visual would serve as the best transition…

Caught this photo on National Geographic’s website. 

From National Geographic:

Photographed Friday in the northern Indian city of Lucknow (India map), a mouse perches on a frog in waist-deep (for a frog, anyway) floodwaters—a small sign of the early arrival of annual summer monsoon rains.

                 Frog & Mouse

If rodents and amphibians can help each other out in desperate times, how difficult is it for us homo sapiens to do likewise?

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