My hope for Pakistan this International Women's Day

Saairah Farooq is a One Young World Ambassador who spoke at the One Young World Summit in 2015 on the topic of women and education. You can watch her speech here. Saairah is a founding member of the women’s movement in Pakistan. Only 2% of women work in corporations in Pakistan. As an accountant at Pepsico, Saairah uses her role to promote education for women. She was instrumental in setting up child care facilities at her work, so women who do come to work can stay there, otherwise 70% of women stop working after marriage. 

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Pakistan: a parochial and male-obsessed country, where the dominant patriarchal set-up seldom provides women with a chance to flourish and stand up for their own cause. 

In Pakistan, women’s harsh realities are rooted in the irony that they lack both education and resources to improve their lives and the lives of those they support.

Stories of continuous struggle, discrimination and violence are quite common and yet it never fails to break my heart.

Each year, many of us across the globe join conferences, workshops and forums to talk about women’s struggles as second grade citizens, the disheartening status of women around the world, and we attempt to resolve the inequality by playing our part in bringing about a positive change for this world’s talent base.

While we listen to the fresh new stories of injustice, discrimination and violence, let’s not discard what has been achieved so far. We have come a long way from where we started and yes the reality is we still have a very long road ahead. This International Women’s Day, I want to talk about hope rather than talking about the saddening and depressing tales of women’s struggles in my homeland. I want to discuss hope for the better times, hope for the light at the end of this long tunnel, hope for the right to choose and hope for a safer and a better future.

Cultural patterns in Pakistan may not let women enjoy their legal and religious rights freely. A boy may still have a better chance to have access to basic right of education than a girl. Quality education may still be a luxury a few could afford but let’s not ignore that despite all the odds, this nation has been able to produce exemplary world class females. 

From Malala Yousafzai to Sharmeen Obaid; one of the youngest Nobel Prize winners in history while the other is a two time Oscar winner. From Samina Baig to Ayesha Farooq, former being the first Muslim female to conquer Everest and the latter breaking the myth and flying a fighter jet for Pakistan’s Air Force. We have it all here. These great examples are my flame of hope.

And so today looking ahead with the hope, determination and resilience this nation possesses, here is my wish for my future generation: I wish for a world where the birth of a girl is considered as much of a celebrated event as that of a boy, and where women are no longer judged on their gender but rather on their actions.

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