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Choices

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Everyday, many of us have to make a choice (not all choices are as hard as I had to make): should we devote our time and talent to making a living - or to getting a life? But there must be a third way and an equilibrium point. Where is that?

In faster lane of life these days, what growing human needs and wants promises is this: Every one must work. Lesser work opportunities are available therefore, labouring at something that may not be personally engaging and rewarding, is common. Too much stress and compromises in life. Many of us are willing to accept the situation because there are not very many choices to be had. It is even crucial when it comes to women in our society. They have yet another societal constrains to work and pursue a career or stay home and give time to family.


Exceptions apart, women in our society are expected to be home. Men are not equally involved in parenting and running household. Women mostly are responsible to raise and educate healthy, happy, and successful children, give care and look after every one? If women are not there, it is considered neglect on their part, which puts the whole family in jeopardy. But this is not a debate about role of women in changing society, nor is it about propagation for any of the feminist movements. Instead, point here is about the choices women have today and how do they exercise them.

Consider some realities as well as rhetoric before examining the choices: Our society as a whole does not see women as career persons in the first place. Then, there are no openings for the girls in public sector or corporate Pakistan. Arguably, some of the barriers of past years are down. See the improved girl boy ratio in higher educational institutions. Measured against the way things were only a couple of decades ago, this is certainly a progress. But measured against the way things should be, this is a revolution slowed down.

Actually, the roots of how women are trained to make choices can be traced deeply entrenched in societal attitudes and in lack of opportunities. Attitude is a behaviour trait that is ascribed from customs, traditions and education. Formation of attitude begins at home right in the childhood when most parents show perceptions for their female wards: whereas boys are expected to grow up as providers and are facilitated to learn manly things, girls on the other hand are seen as care provider and are encouraged to excel in homely things. Similarly, there is visible gender discrimination in corporate sector.

Talking to some women or seeing many more during life reveals that attitudes clusters in place and time. Early in life, female students tend to think that they are going to pursue a career and they say so. But then, suddenly, the girls stop. Despite all those graduating year after year, much less women enter in service. Even lesser pursue a planned and a long term career. For overwhelming majority of those who get a chance to join some vocation, marriage is a major drop out. Those who survive in jobs after marriage incline to get out after they have children, sometime thinking that they will re-enter jobs when the kids grow up. But then it is too late for some.

My first stop to explore the subject was Dr. Laila Farukh, herself a successful career woman and mother of three successful children and a sociologist. She says, “Those women who choose careers despite non support and a sort of scepticism from different corners may have to change plans after marriage or may find it knotty coping with both careers and family obligations at least at some time in life. Reasons are that daughters here are considered “paraya dhan” and are educated or put in professional institutions mostly to provide them with an alternative to fall back upon just in case the need ever arise in life. That is basically wrong. Children should be raised free to decide their own identities apart from the stereotypes and prejudices of society. The approach should be balanced and girls should be brought up to be successful and useful persons of the society giving them equal chances to choose what they want to. Rest every thing will follow. Countering this sensitivity at gross root level is essential and it can be done with determined efforts from multi directions.

Advocate Shama Asim, another career woman who has a lot of incisive observation during her practice in family cases, says, "Work environment here is not conducive for women. Sequencing - temporarily dropping out of the work to raise children "is there in some jobs but it practically is not possible. The high profile jobs do not wait during the necessary absence. What works in developed word; work hard before the children arrive? Step off the career track to be at home when the kids are young. Step back on when the children are older with work is not possible here particularly for more demanding jobs. Similarly concepts like job sharing and flex jobs are not there at all.

Dr. Mueza Faheem, a busy medical practitioner says, "It is very sweet to do nothing and then rest afterwards but economic compulsion these days force women to work. “Turn over in the stitching unit is very high because women have to take and leave the job on the whims of their male family members. Women come on job when male members want and they do not come when they do not want. Children are another reason for working women to step out. In the developed countries, firms have nurseries to look after the babies near work place while women work but there is no such provision here. "How a woman who has to feed her child can work even if she wants to,” say a Saima Nasreen who is a supervisor in a stitching unit of a textile factory.

Scouting reveals that work here in our society is not a matter of choice; it is a matter of economic needs instead. Lucky are those who can have best of both worlds “family life" and work they are satisfied doing.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, February 21, 2013,

6 Comments:

At 10:54, Blogger Alina said...

Shi, the impact of financial needs is hard to neglect in any society. Of course, if these needs would have not existed, probably half of the women working today would have done something else and change would have come in place harder.

However, even when they are working, some are still expected to handle the household on their own. I know plenty such women, working fulltime, then comming home, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children. Men are practically non-existing, except some shopping and some cleaning.

It is true that, at least in Romania, the young people getting married today are changing such attitudes. They get nannies, they take the children to nurseries, but there are still women who depends entirely on their husbands.

What I am proud of are the numbers of women choosing to work, to have a career, to focus on their lives also. Having a life of your own does not mean never getting married or never having children. I guess that equilibrium point you mentioned is a fair division of house chores and care between spouses.

 
At 10:55, Blogger Alina said...

Ranting quite a lot, sorry :D

 
At 11:06, Blogger Shirazi said...

Alina: From your informed comment, it looks that there is a lot common between women from Pakistan (East) and those living in Romania (West). No?

 
At 19:30, Blogger Alina said...

Not exactly, Shi. Mostly, in the urban area, women are expected to work and also do all the housewife work on the side. That to me is even worse than expecting them to stay home and raise children.

 
At 13:29, Blogger Maria said...

Shi,
I also see how in Alina's comment you were trying to segregate Romania and and Pakistan by quickly labelling them as the so-called 'East' and the so-called 'West'. It's not that black and white in the real world.

I live in a so-called 'Eastern' country, called Singapore. Singapore is in Asia, and a lot of the people there have a lot of so-called 'Eastern' principles, also known as principles that are typical in Asian societies.

However.

Many women here have jobs and make money on their own because they have the choice. It is also typical to see women here work, have children, and take care of the expenses in the way that she can for the family. When I was doing my internship, I had a colleague who was in her mid-30s, working as MANAGER, but still goes home to her family, and does her duties as a wife. Her husband also works. And Alina brings up a very great point in saying that there are options such as nannies, day care, etc, because that is also readily available in Singapore. Of course, there are also the women who prefer (note that I use the word 'prefer') to stay home and be a full time stay-at-home mother. And there are some men who actually force their women to stay at home. It's diverse. Which is what the real world is actually made of.

In my culture and my upbringing (which, I have to note again, is that of the so-called 'East'), the father MUST be equally involved in the parenting. He is a FATHER. He has to do his part as the FATHER of these children, because he too is in integral part of the family unit. To expect the mother to do the work is almost synonymous to single parenthood with some other guy who comes home at night with a bundle of money. So when he comes home, he also has to remember he has to be involved with the children, too. My parents are like that.. and I guarantee you I came out fine.
(Then again, this is also attributed to the fact that I am a Christian, a so-called 'Western' religion. I am almost expecting hate comments by mentioning this sentence alone.)

While I know there are some societies out there (like yours) who still take the conservative route with domestic issues, I think there should be a realization that there are cultures out there who are DIFFERENT. Who have taken another route or choice. And it seems to work fine for them. So if it works for certain cultures, then there is nothing we can do about it, because it works. If another way works for another culture, then that should be their method. There is no one hard, fast way to do things.

 
At 17:20, Anonymous Kausar Bilal said...

In Pakistan women should have choices of being working or non-working, but more important is to have freedom to live a life of fulfillment. Fulfillment, that let you grow as a person, as a professional, as a social being and as a spiritual being, is the main objective of all rights and struggle. In other words, our emotional needs come on the priority list and the entire sweat is to make someone really happy. We require the equilibrium where all our needs are met in ethical manner.
So, I believe that we should make choices accordingly.

 

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