Baloch Women: Rising Success Models for Collective Development

Uplifting and empowering women in many parts of Balochistan has always remained a challenge but the courage and optimism of Balochi women offers a ray of hope for Pakistan. Empowerment in its ideal form is a multifaceted procedure that enables an individual to recognize his or her identity and capacity in different aspects of their lives, including increased autonomy in decision-making, to make most of the opportunities, and have control over decisions that directly influence their lives. If a person is empowered, then they are able to participate in the progress and well-being of the community in its social, psychological, economical, intellectual and occupational domains. Uplifting women must be a collective goal of the whole society as it is one of the means that can guide the society in a progressive direction. There are different tools that can be utilized to promote female empowerment such as social justice, availability of education, equal economic opportunities, respect and tolerance, etc. 
The most powerful tool is education that empowers and elevates the individual in intellectual, organizational, societal, economical, administrative, and family arenas. Balochistan’s daughter Farwa Batool, who belongs to Hazara community is an example of female empowerment by the dent of education. Ms. Batool graduated from LUMS in 2018, topped CSS Central Superior Services (CSS) examination in Balochistan and scored ninth position in Pakistan. Not only did she make her alma mater proud but also proved once again that women can achieve anything they set their mind to. Her achievement has been referred to as ‘women's success’ that gives them access to equal opportunities, social security and justice, if they dare to dream. On inquiring about her success story Ms. Batool shared that it was a difficult journey: “I worked hard and pushed through all the challenges. There once came a time when I was asked to stop pursuing my degree at LUMS due to financial problems but I was determined to find a solution. After thorough research, I applied for financial assistance and received support from the university.” She explained, “At LUMS I recognized my strengths and had the time to polish them. The ability to think critically and analyze situations was something I learned at the university. This greatly aided me in my preparation for the exam.”
Her achievement exemplifies the power of unshakeable determination, the resolve to tackle challenges and the will to go against the status quo if needed.
According to a survey, literacy rate among women in Balochistan is only 27%. There are many factors that contribute to this low literacy rate including lack of educational facilities and infrastructure. Women in Balochistan are challenging the seemingly pathological gender role and are carving out their own identity by taking part in the progress and development of their community. Balochi women desire to participate in all spheres of economic activity to raise awareness of current events and concerns related to Balochistan; they desire to make their own place in the society. Farwa Batool is an inspiration in this reason for many girls who are struggling against the cultural and socio-economic barriers that may stop them from achieving their dreams.
Parental support plays a crucial role in women’s endeavor to advance in education and social participation. In many parts of Balochistan, a serious issue is the lack of support from the parents and family members, who oppose women's education due to the fear of social stigmatization and marginalization and for them social approval is extremely important. Thus, it becomes very difficult and challenging for parents to go against the social norms in Balochistan. Farwa Batool shared in an interview that she gives all the credit of her success to her parents who helped her in achieving the unimaginable. Her parents supported her in attaining education and enabled her to face challenges no matter how difficult the situation gets. She also explained that her father always wanted his children to make a name for themselves and so he made sure that his children studied in the best educational institutions. She also said that her mother used to take time out from household chores to teach her and maybe that is why she was able to have a strong base. Ms. Batool says, “I acknowledge the fact that where I am today, is a product of my parents’ innumerable sacrifices and opportunities that Allah has blessed me with. I want to play my part in providing the same opportunities to the people around me, particularly in the field of education.”
Another socio-cultural obstacle to female progress is the tradition of marriages at an early age in many parts of rural Balochistan. Parents believe in the concept of early marriages of their daughters and therefore restrict them from getting formal education. This is a harsh reality that keeps the majority of Baloch women away from all available opportunities in the country.
We need to acknowledge that women have equal potential to participate in the society’s progress and development. In an ideal society, uplifting women is likely to make them more productive and every woman must be encouraged to attain empowerment through education as their inclusion will certainly help to achieve wonders for the province and the country.
We need to realize that a fully functioning and healthy society is only possible if all members of the society are equally motivated to take part in the development and advancement of the society. Women make up half of the population. Suppressing and marginalizing them in the name of obsolete cultural norms and values will ultimately result in regression. We need to take inspiration from the women in Balochistan who have crossed social and cultural hurdles and have made a name for themselves. Women like Farwa Batool give us hope that women are on the right track and that female inclusion is no more a dream; it is now a reality that offers a positive outcome for every woman in Pakistan. HH

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