Pakistan is a country of South Asia, and like all the other countries of the region we are rich in our culture and heritage. We take pride in upholding our traditional values which have been passed on from generation to generation. I feel since we love our culture therefore we carry a profound respect for other cultures of the world.
I was blessed to attend the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW61), representing the Church of Pakistan. I was amazed to see so many women from different parts of the world bringing to this conference almost the same issues that have been faced by us in Pakistan. It was a joy to discuss how to overcome the barriers to change the mindset of many for the betterment of women. It was interesting to further elaborate on women’s economic empowerment and the gender equality. At the same time, I realized that the situation of our country is also different from the other countries. According to our culture, women are generally asked to stay at home; working outside, especially with the opposite gender, is still frowned upon in many households. In other words, they are told to stay in the “veil”. But the question arises then, how can we empower women in situations like these? How can we empower them but at the same time respect the culture of the region? The answer to this is not to try to change the culture which is difficult, but to find out appropriate means to work within the given situation. It means we need to find out the ways how to “empower women within the veil”. Although this might appear strange to some developed countries, but this approach is more acceptable in our society. The Church of Pakistan in its humble capacity is trying to adopt this approach. To empower women, two basic needs are (a) education and (b) skill development. To meet these needs, the Church in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab has set up vocational and adult literacy centres for women. These centres have been set up in the neighbourhoods, usually in a house of one of the ladies where they can easily gather. Mostly, they have an interaction with female teachers, which makes it easier for their husband or fathers to allow them to receive an education and learn skills. A skilled woman is a help to the families to earn a little more for the survival. In this way, the Church helps women of all backgrounds, empowering them to make a difference.
Khushbakht Peters is an eye surgeon from the diocese of Peshawar in Pakistan. She was a delegate at UNCSW61 in March 2017