An ode to the working woman of Pakistan

Where do I start? How do I commend the committed Pakistani woman who juggles three roles all at once, with no margin of error? How do I appreciate the woman who has the courage to break out of the vulnerable woman stereotype? What do I say about the self-doubt and introspection that woman experiences from the moment she leaves her home and commutes to work? Not to mention the soul crushing harassment during the commute and in the work place. I totally understand why Pakistani women behave oddly in office environment. They don’t want to be labeled. Forget the minefield of social stigmas this woman has to avoid just to complete one day’s worth of work. Where do these beautiful strong souls muster the courage to stay focused and prove themselves as professionals when every person around them, including the men in their families, think it isn’t meant to last?

The working mother gets up early, wakes up the rest of the house hold, sends her kids to school, serves the husband and mother-in-law, and then leaves for work. She trudges through a sea of ogling men and unruly traffic to reach an unrewarding workplace, that fails to respect her commitment. Then there is the hipshot boss who uses her as a marketing object instead of actual professional work. Then she bears the insults of arrogant, chauvinistic pigs, in the shape of customers or superiors, who firmly believe it’s their God given right to belittle the women outside their home. Theadded humiliation of being given unimportant tasks and low pays, because the boss man thinks ‘oye yeh kahan rahay ge‘ – she isn’t going to work for long. I can’t imagine how these angels ask for their basic rights in an environment that expects them to be demure and acquiesce to the male domination. The battered and bruised lady returns home to see a sullen husband asking her to become Sunny Leone, ungrateful kids demanding new mobile phones and the always demanding mother-in-law.

All this was the better scenario; the woman who is strong, married, confident and not completely dependent on the income from her job. What to say about the lady that needs to feed her family from the pittance the unfeeling boss throws towards her. I am talking about the office girls, receptionist, file clerks and sales girls. I shudder to think the kind of exploitation taking place with these hard working girls in the absence of labor law enforcement, considering their skills are ‘replaceable’ and they are desperate to make ends meet.

Women in office jobs would at least have the consolation of having pensionable jobs, the one’s they can’t be fired from. Career progression is a luxury in the government sector because no one grades employees on productivity and professionalism anyways.

A big shout out to my home-girls! You Pakistani working wonder-women, I hear you! I see how disappointed, hurt, angered, tired you get from the indifference of the people who surround you. But you rise above it and I also see your steadfastness, perseverance and faith you show against overwhelming odds in Pakistan. I for one am a believer in your God gifted strength of character. I believe God created the woman to bring joy to mother earth. I see the sacrifice, unconditional love and loyalty that only a woman can give to her family, spouse, siblings and work and I praise God for his masterpiece. So, to all you Pakistani men like me who make fun of women in our closed gatherings; I ask you to cut them some slack. If you have a working woman in your family, make her smile with a kind word and some gratitude. That’s all she wants!

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