“Kha khaza jannat dey” “good woman is heaven.”
The Pashtun thinking about the status of women can be summarized by above saying. Ghani Khan, the great twentieth century Pashtu poet and philosopher, in his book “The Pathan” writes that the Pashtun loves his new riffle and old wife. As other nations, the Pashtuns have their own core ideology, their code of ethics and their own way of life, called Pashtunwali. This Pashtunwali forms the basic caucus around which the whole Pashtun society is built.
The women folk have a central role in the Pashtuns society. They live in the bounds of traditional customs and Pashtun social structure. However, in the system, every woman has her role and identity specified as a mother, daughter, sister and wife. The most powerful role that she enjoys is that of a mother, this role is veneered by many Pashto poets and is vastly appreciated. Her major strength reflects in her role as a mother, where she becomes a powerful opinion leader. When as mother she is respected as a daughter she is loved. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, when a baby girl is born, she is considered as a blessing. It is considered that she is bound to leave the family, and become the rudder of her own house. For that role she is prepared early on, and as she grows up she is trained to do all domestic chores. She has given an instruction to cover herself properly called “Parda”. She helps her family with easy tasks but has considerable freedom to play as a kid. Most probably she starts school at about 6, must to learn the Holy Quran and some basic readings.
But this glittering image of Pashtun women is spotty in many ways and circumstances. These spots are more pronounced, particularly in the rural areas, where misuse and misinterpretation of the traditions and customs of Pashtun Cultural Values is pervasive. According to global monitoring report by UNESCO (2012) there is a significant gender gap in education in Pakistan but the gender gap in educational attainment is especially pronounced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The province has the highest incidence of poverty in Pakistan and also has the highest poverty rate for women. According to the save the children survey report (2013) Of the 22,760 functional primary schools across the 25 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there are only 7,941 (35 per cent) schools for girls.
The tradition of “Parda”, which is not only a religious requirement but also a tenant of Pashtun culture, often becomes a hindrance to female education, careers and social mobility. Fortunately, large number of girls gets admission in schools these days, but in rural area they are allowed to go to school only if there is only for girl’s school not in co-education. Though there are a quite a few co-education schools in urban areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but still co-education is frowned upon in rural areas. Even little girls, as young as 5 years of age, are not permitted to get schooling in co-education system.
According to the World Bank (2015) report 72% people belonging to villages believe that women should have careers. When a girl turns to her adolescence, she is prohibited from going out of home resulting in school dropout, terminating any hope of any meaningful career.
- The main reason for girl child not attending beyond the 5th class is expectations of domesticity. She is needed at home to do home chores. Typically, House is considered to be center of all activities; she stays at home around the clock.
- Another reason is early age marriages and takes care of younger children. According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2012-2013) the ratio of child marriages in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is as high as 74 per cent.
- Safety of girls travelling alone is a major concern for girls in rural areas. There are limited or no transport facilities available in rural areas due to the poor infrastructure.
- Another reason is the girl’s excessive independence. I see a fear that educating girls grant them excessive independence, and this is seemingly manifested in the attitude that parents take to a girl off education.
Moreover, the Pashtun norms and values bestow certain amount of respect to women, according to the religion Islam, which keeps the woman in higher esteem. The cases where the two codes oppose it seem that religion has to give way. It included the three important respects, namely marriage and divorce, inheritance, and her contribution and involvement in public and religious life. According to the Quran woman have a formal right to accept or refuse a marriage. (Quran 2:228). While in this society in some cases she has a right to accept or reject the proposal. Pashtuns are traditional-bounded people where a man is prevented to talk with young girls outside the close family circle, and in case of the marriage where the man does not choose his life partner, but in rare cases, when he convinces his father to comply with his wish.
As The Holy Quran and history have revealed that women are equal to men, according to the Holy Quran, man and woman will reward equally for their deeds.(Quran 3:195). In Pashtun society there is a distinct division between man and woman. However Allah has endowed both with duties. Men are creative that’s why he is responsible of earning and protecting his wife and family, while women are aloof and is responsible to take care of home and kids. In this society the man is the bread earner and the woman is the bread maker. Obtaining of information and instruction is logical for both men and women; be that as it may, their inclination and substance are not the same as each other As indicated by the view of an outstanding Islamic researcher, Abu Ala Maududi, he said “The correct kind of training for woman is what prepares her to become a decent house attendant.”. A woman’s main duties consist of bread-making; she cooked the meal thrice a day (breakfast, lunch or dinner), cleaning and boiling rice, wheat, and corn for cooking. She also looks after the children, washing and making clothe etc.
Consequently, in some cases the economic condition of Pashtun woman depicts the theory of gender inequality. The theory suggests that: “women are dependent on the men for her security and protection.” However, economically some Pashtun women are anticipated as financially weak and dependent upon men for money. Thus, this is considered as highly an important and subjective matter to discuss. People who have studied and understand the culture, religion and tradition, they recognize that in reality, it is not the men which has isolated women from social and economic behaviors, but it is the deficiencies of opportunities for her which have isolated the Pashtun women of rural areas from earning and rising her standard of living.
Pashtun women are not isolated totally, as in some Asian countries also where people do impose some rules and restriction on Muslim women’s participation and contribution in such type of social activities, under some certain conditions while the Pashtun’s culture and traditions are Islamic in this regard. I think somehow the code of our social system has not given women equal power in this society and it created an unequal division between the men and women.
I can feel that Women in rural areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are getting harder time and problems in a greater proportion the following are suggestions to improve the role and status of Pashtun women in the rural areas of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.
- Provision of Education:
The literacy rate of the females in rural areas of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is lower than the global standards. There are few schools for primary education and even fewer high schools. There are no universities or colleges in rural areas. Due to this, access to education is limited in the rural areas. Hence, for the improvement and development of Pashtun women in the rural areas, some essential steps should take by the government.
Furthermore, the provision of educational facilities will not solve the problem for the rural women, it is also essential raise the awareness of Pashtun women with regard to their rights to education and encourage them for acquire educated. Women play an important role in the economic development of the country. But the question is: would the government play its role?
- Involvement in Decision Making:
For a happy, successful family, both men and women have the equal right of decision-making for future development. But if women get power of decision-making for her family, she can also carry out a lot of tasks easily. For the betterment of the children and for their bright future women and men should make decisions together for family development.
- Job Opportunities:
Pashtun women should be given equal opportunities of doing a job of her choice, it will not only make the family financially strong but will also divide the financial burden on men. By doing this they can gain a strong, financial condition and can live a healthy successful life.
Pashtun woman is also considered as honorable, strong mother of tomorrow; therefore, they need to be treating well, physically, morally or psychologically. They can make their home and family financially strong by providing her equal opportunities.