Issues and Challenges

Womanhood in the Digital Age

The current digital era has brought along a whole spectrum of opportunities to grow and prosper for women of all ages, income groups and sections of the society. With myriad online educational resources, bright prospects in freelancing, entrepreneurship culture, and strong social networking, life is optimized for men and women equally as we enter into 2020. 

A Woman’s Life Before Information Age
Flipping back through the pages of history, it is astonishing to find that an accomplished woman was considered to be an exemplary home manager, preferably with fair complexion and a soft-spoken nature. In those times, the desire to pursue dreams was seldom encouraged in towns. A woman after marriage considered her husband and children the last stations of her life. Once these stations were met, her individuality and personal choices barely existed. Life was divided into days, and each day followed the same routine like clockwork: cook, clean, wash, socialize, repeat. The need to self-actualize and critical thinking were rarely supported. If a woman desired to work, in most cases the idea was rejected on notion that a woman’s earnings are unblessed, and does not contribute much to the family economy. The only avenue to build one’s thought processes was media and conventional wisdom. Even today, travelling to villages reveals the perceptions of people, which are shocking to hear and hard to comprehend. But gone are the days where the purpose of a woman’s life was restricted to the four walls of her home.

Digitalization and Self-Actualization
The digital era has helped the women with dark skin tone, low income status, physical or mental disability to realize their sense of individuality as a human being and excel in their potential careers. Social media sites enable small home-based setups to market their products to a wider population, and boost their income. At a deeper level, we find that a greater segment of female population is in the process of self-discovery and self-actualization. Women of today’s age are well-aware of the fact that a self-actualized woman is a genuinely happy woman, and only happy women are able to make happy homes. Now, the question is what makes a woman self-actualized?
The boons of digital era such as ease of seeking education, running businesses through social networking, digital banking, pursuing entrepreneurship, building strong public relations and philanthropic efforts — all of it evokes the sense of individuality and revives the self-confidence in women. This sense of individuality gives a woman the strength to face the stereotypical norms of the society where a woman was and perhaps still is, weighed for her skin color, income status, body weight, height and physical beauty. It is this sense of individuality that enables her to struggle hard for education and build careers so as to raise strong leaders in the generations to come. And it is this self-belief that enables women to play their caretaker and nurturer role successfully. A mother of the information age is able to learn the art of parenting sitting in the comfort of her home and nourish her child physically and mentally. 

The Ascent of Women in Modern Era
Digital life, as I call it for we heavily rely on digital technology for travelling, banking, shopping, entertainment, learning, earning, social networking, etc. All of these activities are just one click away but the essence of womanhood is still intact. Every woman is a success story in the making and strives hard to support her family, which forms the basic pillars of her life. 
Looking at the most successful women of Pakistan, Smile Again Foundation, brain-child of Mussarat Misbah, the founder of Depilex, is an example of digital philanthropy. The manifesto of Smile Again Foundation is to empower the victims of acid attacks by training them for beauty industry and give these women a new hope to live, learn and earn for themselves. 
Muniba Mazari, the first and so far the only wheelchair bound TV host as well as Pakistan’s first female Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, after losing her legs, gathered enough courage to transform her passion for art into a universally acknowledged brand, Muniba’s Canvas. Her resilience won her a place in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017. She has keenly represented voice of countless men and women on issues such as gender discrimination and inequality.
Fiza Farhan, the co-founder of Buksh Foundation, a microfinance firm, which develops clean energy projects for the underprivileged and rural areas of Pakistan, has worked to bring solar powered lights, through her company, to at least 6750 houses around the country. For her accomplishements, she was listed on Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2015.
Sihah Waris, the founder of Rise Mom, aims to facilitate working mothers to monitor their children through their online monitoring system which enables women to view them online and check their activities, sitting in their workplace. A graduate of the Founder Institute, Islamabad Chapter, one of the best entrepreneurship accelerator programs with roots in Silicon Valley, Sihah has revolutionized life of working mothers to a whole new level.
The E-Learning Network (ELN), is the brain-child of Sana Farooq. It delivers online accredited teacher trainings that assist women to develop their teaching careers within the comfort of their home.
The scope of this article is too short to cover all the success stories of women in Pakistan that have inspired countless women around the globe to aspire and pursue their dreams. The essence of womanhood hasn’t changed with the change of times. We still care for our children, value our families, nurture the people who matter to us but not at the cost of our self-esteem and confidence. The color bias and prejudice against dark skin tone still exists. People still create hurdles for women when they walk out of their homes to earn, be it a corporate job or driving a taxi. Even today, women are expected to bury their self-respect and enslave themselves to the societal norms. We need to think whether setting these standards of restricting women to home managerial tasks is the right thing to do. Won’t the nation grow, if women — the caretakers of tomorrow’s leaders – are given a chance to become strong leaders today? How do we expect a woman to relish her womanhood and motherhood, when she finds it hard to self-actualize? These false barriers need to be broken so that our generations can truly reach success, morally and economically. HH

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