Career – a word which is mostly confined to a man’s world at least in countries like Pakistan. When it comes to women, it loses its worth and changes its meaning. A career-oriented man is praiseworthy. He is supported and appreciated for his hard work, dedication and selflessness. Put a woman in his place and all positive points turn negative. Women in our country don’t have much of a chance to select and pursue careers of their choice. They don’t enjoy equal right to live, work and grow– the way they want and aspire to be. Apparently there has been a change in our socio-economic and even political scenario. More and more girls are getting education in non-traditional fields such as IT, computers, engineering, marketing, advertising, finance and business management etc., But when comes to taking them up as their professions, they face many barriers.
Kishwar is one such girl. With a Masters degree in Journalism and a flair for writing, she wanted to make her career in the field of journalism. She even worked in a newspaper for some time. But late working hours, family pressure and commuting problems pushed her to quit. Now she is working as a teacher in a school near her house. Under-paid and over-worked , she often feels disappointed, however, she has little career options.Asma, holding a Master’s degree in Economics, also adopted teaching as an alternate profession. Though she got an attractive job in a multi-national bank, she had to quit it after marriage since her husband and in-laws were not in favour of office jobs for women
Afsheen, an electric engineer, teaches Mathematics in another private school. Her engineering career was disrupted when her parents realised that professional women in male dominated careers are not a preferred choice for most larka walas.
One can find a big force of such highly qualified, displaced and discouraged girls in our society. There are doctors, engineers, lawyers and countless graduates in various disciplines who can’t utilize their education into practice. Generally parents allow their daughters to go for higher education so that they get better proposals. They even let them work as long as they find suitable matches. Once married, their destiny is left at the mercy of their husbands and in-laws.
In fact, our society has not accepted a woman’s right to a career. She is ideal as a docile daughter and caring sister. She is lucky when she gets a husband with handsome job and is envied when she wins the title of excellent housekeeper, wife and mother.These are, no doubt, various important roles of a woman as man has the roles of a son, brother and husband, But they are often mistaken as her aim in life.Society including parents, in-laws, husbands and children expect a woman to sacrifice her life for them. A career oriented and ambitious woman is mostly discouraged as selfish, insensitive and ruthless.
I personally know many brilliant, educated girls who have now turned to ‘pure’ housewives . A majority of them have a nagging feeling. They can pursue a career and balance their domestic and professional responsibilities with little support from their near and dear ones. But saying that a woman’s home is her world, they are often discouraged . Most of the men, irrespective of their academic and social status, prefer housewives who run their homes and rear their children without any fuss . They want painted dolls with crystal smiles, waiting and receiving them at the doorstep of their houses every evening.
“How could a working woman keep her husband happy. She can’t get time from her professional responsibilities to take care of his comforts”, says a bachelor.
“I will never allow my wife to do a job since the working environment is not suitable for women in offices” , says an advertising agency personnel who has many female colleagues.
One can identify hostile working conditions, socio-economic set up and traditional individuals roles in family structure as major barriers in the career of women. But the conservative mentality of our people is the core reason. It is generally believed that a woman remains under control as long as she is economically dependent. So a loving husband may permit his wife to socialize, gossip, shop, or anything else, except lead a serious profession and earning money.
In this scenario, most girls give up. They forget their ambitions as dreams of the past and accept pre-designed mothering and nurturing roles as their destiny. While a majority of them are reduced to housekeepers, some may get a chance to find an escape in part-time jobs like teaching, tutoring etc.,Teaching and Medicine are perhaps the only two professions that are accepted for females in our society.
Very few lucky women are able to pursue a profession of their own choice. But even they are not given any concession. They are expected to perform all household duties including cooking, washing, cleaning, mothering and hosting, with perfection. A man can complain about work pressure, he can feel tired and irritated but not a woman. A working woman needs extra energy and immense nerves to prove herself at every point.
Throughout the world, nine to five office jobs are not considered ideal for women. Thus, modern educated women are now attracted to entrepreneurship and non-traditional professions like interior and fashion designing, painting, candle making, boutique, beauty parlour and other unconventional businesses. Many are working as free-lance writers, consultants, counsellors and social workers. Freedom of work and flexibility of time are the keys to their success in these fields.
Shaista Saeed, a free-lance writer, author of a book and a sociologist believes that family and children should be the first priority of every woman. At the same time, she says she can carry on with a profession.
Amna is running a shop for women and children near her house. Though business requires a lot of attention, investment and dedication, but she considers it better than an office job. “Business women are their own boss so they can schedule their responsibilities according to their convenience,” she added.
Shehla started a beauty parlour 10 years ago with her friends as a hobby . Now after ten years, it has turned into a profitable business.
Afsheen is working as an educational psychologist, arranging workshops and offering programmes for teachers’ training and students’ counseling. Amina has held several exhibitions of her glass paintings while Nimra has proved herself in textile designing, block printing and mirror work.
All these women, who are doing well in their fields of activity, agree that there is always a supportive man behind every successful woman. A woman can not work without peace of mind. Whether she is working full-time or part-time, doing business, having a job or even social work, she needs acceptance, approval and encouragement of her family especially male members. It is simply as they require her cooperation for their progress.
Ironically, a majority of women don’t get due support from their male counterparts. On the contrary, they are required to choose between profession and family at some point of their lives . Quite often they have no option but to give up their dreams and career for diaper and kitchen ware.
A woman may claim herself a feminist or a revolutionist. But she can’t deny her basic need of having a family, husband and children. Thus, she is emotionally exploited on the same front by saying that a working woman can never be a good wife and mother.
It is time our society should accept women as human beings, respect their needs, social acceptance and identity and stop making a fool of them in the name of honour and customs. We can’t make any progress leaving behind half of the population, passive and suppressed. We can’t meet the challenges of the 21st century by confining women to their traditional roles within the four walls of the home. We can’t even expect a healthy and prosperous generation from impractical and disenchanted mothers.