Malik M Ashraf:
THE indispensability of women in any field of national activity is indeed a universally accepted reality. An incisive peek into the freedom movements around the globe (both past and present) and history of socio-economic development of developed nations unravels the fact that their success stories were woven around the role of women. Muslim women also made a sterling contribution to the Pakistan freedom movement.
Though the women who pioneered the participation of women in the movement belonged to the elitist class in view of the permeating conservatism among the Muslim community, but they were able to enlist the support and active participation of women from conservative milieu, as a result of their unrelenting and unflinching efforts to strengthen the movement from platform of women section of Muslim League which Quaid-i-Azam created in 1938. Quaid-i-Azam was intensely aware of the role of women in the nation building and this is what he said while addressing them “In the great task of building the nation and maintaining its solidarity, women have a most valuable part to play, as the prime architects of the character of youth that constitutes its backbone, not merely in their own homes but by helping their less fortunate sisters outside in the great task. I know that in the long struggle for the achievement of Pakistan, Muslim women have stood solidly behind their men. In the bigger struggle for the building up of Pakistan that now lies ahead, let it not be said that the women of Pakistan had lagged behind or failed in their duty”
But it is regrettable to note that the achievements and contributions made by women in the Pakistan movement are not given the projection that they deserve and it is mostly a male-dominated view of the freedom movement that is disseminated and propagated with relish, reflecting the permeating prejudice against women in our male dominated society. The mosaic of freedom movement cannot be choreographed without the role that women have played in realizing the dream of Pakistan.
Nevertheless it was indeed gratifying to note that they were not a totally forgotten lot. The Directorate of Electronic Media and Publication, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage organized a three-day photo exhibition at Aiwane Quaid in Islamabad pertaining to the freedom movement, where pictures of the women who participated in the freedom movement along with stories about their role were conspicuously displayed. The exhibition was inaugurated by the minister of state for Information, Broadcasting and national heritage Marriyam Aurangzeb. The exhibition frankly speaking was quite educative for me as well and I must honestly admit that I did not know about some of the women who were an integral part of the freedom movement and made appreciable contributions to its cause. Reportedly a large number of students and members of the public visited the exhibition and evinced tremendous interest in the role of women in the freedom struggle.
Celebrating the national days like the Pakistan Resolution Day popularly known as Pakistan Day has a very specific purpose. It is not only for organizing festive activities but also an occasion to pay tributes to the founding fathers, recreate the history of the freedom movement to apprise the younger generation about the course of the movement and the sacrifices that went into the creation of Pakistan, the objectives of the movement, appraising the achievements and failures since independence and renewing the pledge to rectify the past mistakes and pursuing the cherished goals of independence with an unruffled commitment in consonance with the vision of the founding father. This is absolutely essential to maintain strong connectivity with the past and to charter the future course while remaining wedded to the objectives of the freedom struggle. However no celebrations would be complete or worth the effort without the full and unhindered participation of women in the task of nation building and the reminiscences of their role in the creation of this god gifted land.
Apart from the government, social entities particularly the organizations vying for the rights of women and gender equality also have a role to play in highlighting the contributions made by women in the Pakistan movement. The media regrettably has also not shown the required enthusiasm in projecting the role of women. It has a greater responsibility in this regard and needs to focus more on this aspect of the freedom struggle in the future besides highlighting the transformation that has taken place in the country in regards to growing acceptance of concept of gender equality and steps taken by the government in domain of women empowerment and gender equality.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.