Unofficial Ambassador of Pakistani Women
Today I have the feeling of being an ambassador and voice of the women of Pakistan. I am an educated and aware woman of Pakistan. I am well-travelled and lucky to have interacted with many people of different cultures including some from Africa and Japan.
Hailing from a traditional family, this has placed me among the women of the élite class in Pakistan. My movement vertically and horizontally across the social stratum of my country, allows me to accurately comment on the wellness of each class in my homeland.
Wellness Pakistani Style
Wellness is a sum of the balance between all the aspects of a person’s life. This includes the social, emotional, occupational, environmental, spiritual and intellectual wellness. It also means how well a person is doing in these aspects within society. As all these spheres have strong external influences, they vary in each society.
Pakistani society is different in many ways when it comes to women and their status in our country. We have:
- Strong cultural values and influences relating to religion.
- Social and family ties requiring women to follow strict codes of conduct.
- Lower social status for women within a family setting preferring male over female offspring, especially in lower and middle classes
- Minimal business, employment, sports and recreation opportunities due to social pressures and restrictions.
- Total or partial dependence on male members of the family for most functions of a woman’s life.
This, however, by no means translates to a simple assessment that a Pakistani woman is downtrodden or living a tormented life for the most part. All these factors come as a mixed blessing for a Pakistani woman in that:
- She does not have to “win her own bread.”
- Our divorce rate is pretty low.
- Single-parenting is rare wherein a mother has to support her child alone.
- Strong family support and bonding gives her added protection and safety from external influences.
- Though under pressure in many ways, she is kept in high esteem as mother, sister and wife.
- Of late, preferential treatment at the governmental level is being meted out to women with the introduction of quota in education, employment and special seats for women in legislative assemblies.
Women of Class
The wellness of a Pakistani woman varies widely depending on class she belongs. Typically, there are three social classes in Pakistan and the women of each will have (or do not have) privileges, social standing and opportunities given her according to class.
Elite Class Women
- She is pampered, wears expensive clothes and enjoys a luxurious life without having to work or being highly educated.
- She has every kind of independence and her life is free from the usual social pressures yet enjoying the family support and standing peculiar to a Pakistani society.
- She is politician and doing well in every single way in life, sometimes even more than her counterpart in western society.
All in all, her wellness is guaranteed by her social placement.
Middle Class Women
- She is the most productive of Pakistani women and an anchor of the Pakistani society.
- She is educated, professional and is a doctor, writer, lecturer, armed forces officer, pilot, banker, human right activist, sportswoman and everything else.
- She might be a stay-at-home mother. However, if she works outside the home, she still is the caretaker of the household since a Pakistani middle class woman wear all hats in a go. Her job requirements does release her of household responsibilities and the family relies on her for their wellness.
- She is subjected to all kind of social pressures and bondages while having relatively easy access to education and employment opportunities.
Lower Class Women
- She is the most downtrodden of all the women of Pakistan.
- Subject to the worst social, environmental and occupational conditions and pressures.
- She is the most discriminated in a rural culture of restrictions, domestic violence, sibling inequality, underage marriage, forced labor and a plethora of other issues.
- She is brought up in a tradition where she takes her status as her destiny and remains “satisfied” with all the treatment reserved in her cultural settings.
Class Determines Wellness
Life and wellness of a Pakistani woman is directly dependent on the class in which she is born. The society does not guarantee wellness by default. It is not within the power of a Pakistani woman to change or carve her destiny (in most cases) if she is not born in the right strata of society.
Striking a balance in life as it relates to wellness is a story beyond the reach of an average Pakistani woman.
Tomorrow, Alexis Ali will continue her look at violence in women with Part 2 of the four-part short stories series – “Adele’s Pattern: A Journey To Redemption.” Catch up with Part 1 here.