I’m not obsessed with feminism. I’m one of those people who loathe being labelled in anyway – ‘isms’ aren’t my thing. Though I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, I’m also not in favour of harassing people who call themselves feminists. I respect my feminist friends and I’m not in favour of blaming the feminists for all the world’s problems. Generalising people on the basis of something they believe in is not a wise thing to do. I’ve been always passionate about the subject of women empowerment, but it was only few months ago when I noticed the stigma against this term. First of all, the moment you whisper ‘women empowerment’, brace yourself for titles such as ‘yahudi agent’, and ‘brainwashed feminists’ – and if these aren’t enough, you can even get accused of being a rebel who’s against Islamic values. I won’t go deeper in the ‘Islamic values’ part, but there are things I think need to be put straight for the sake of all those wonderful women who’re on the right path to empowerment and enlightenment.

I don’t know much about feminism but the concept of women empowerment is unnecessarily related to it. When the idea of empowerment with regards to a certain community comes into consideration – whether women, minorities, youth, or the whole nation – it means that some form of exploitation and problems are around. We talk about women empowerment because, unless we’re living in total denial, we can clearly see that majority of the Pakistani women is not living in any kind of heaven. There are many parts of the country where women suffer at the hands of absurd traditions like honour killing, Karo Kari, Vanni. There are parts of the country where a woman faces exploitation from male relatives in the matters of property. Catcalling is our national sport. There’s a huge stigma against a woman refusing a proposal or trying to have a say in the matter of her marriage.

Empowerment is not a dirty word. When Islam came to the Arab lands, empowerment took place there and then. Equality was promoted, slavery was discouraged, killing of infant girls was prohibited, people were advised to pay the labourers their wages immediately, racism was discouraged and all these were all forms of empowerment.

If the west has certain ideas about empowerment, which we happen to dislike, this does not mean we have to act blind to our own realities. Our whole society needs many forms of empowerment. And if some people choose to highlight the need of a certain form of empowerment, say youth empowerment, or women empowerment, there’s nothing wrong with that. When you are teaching an illiterate to read and write, you’re also empowering them in a way. If you are inspiring positivity into someone, you are helping them empower themselves. Empowerment comes in many ways. Shallow judgement is the very thing that is generating so much unrest in our society. There are manipulative elements around who use the dilemma faced by women for their own interests. There are also people who’re using religion, politics, and technology in selfish and destructive ways. Using such negative elements as an excuse to reject the need to bring some positive change about is pointless.

Like it or not, we just cannot abolish women’s role in the way our society functions. Even if you lock them up in their houses, they’re going to have an impact in the upbringing of your children. The right to education, health, protection against violence, harassment, and exploitation of rights such as share in property, and being able to own their personal property, are the major things which no one ever should be able to deny. The timid and mediocre role of women, which God knows why we keep on insisting to be their fate, is actually ruining the whole society. I’ve seen people whining about how the ‘saas bahu’ feuds are ruining their peace (which is true in many cases). The question is: Who’s responsible for this behaviour? If these behaviours are so destructive, then why do we insist on keeping women stuck in them? Why the idea of mentally strong women freaks us out?

I know there are people who will only read the title of the post and throw the tantrums. You guys are more than welcome. There’s lot more that needs to be said and explored, and if only we can lower our egos and raise our positive vibes, things will get way easier.

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