Spartans reflect on Pakistani girls’ rights
Malala Yousafzai is seen recovering at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, London in October 2012. Yousafai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize Wednesday. Xinhua/News Pictures/Abaca Press/MCT
As 15-year-old activist and 2013 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai recovers from recent surgery after being shot in the head on her way home from school, MSU faculty and students from Pakistan are reflecting on her fight for girls’ rights to education and what it’s really like to live there.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Yousafzai was shot point-blank in the head and neck by Pakistani Taliban militants while she was riding home from school, according to a CNN report.
Yousafzai isn’t the only one speaking out for women’s rights. English professor Jyotsna Singh said Yousafzai is one of many South Asian women speaking out about their rights.
“(Women) already made (their goals) clear,” said Singh, an expert in gender and race issues in the region.
“The backlash is, in a sense, that … more and more women are (now) educated.”
Sociology assistant professor Khalida Zaki, a Pakistan native and expert in women’s education and social issues in South Asia, said in rural areas of Pakistan, parents fear sending their daughters to school because of safety threats.
“(For) young girls in rural areas, where there is a lack of security, there is a risk of being harassed by men,” Zaki said.
International relations junior Kanza Khan said after visiting her home city of Karachi, Pakistan, she’s noticed improvements in women’s education through the years.
Khan said her female cousins living in Pakistan have access to education, but many other young women don’t.
“This isn’t a Pakistan, domestic or terrorist issue; this is an issue of mothers, daughters and grandmothers that just want to learn,” Khan said. “All we want to do is learn.”
Singh also said many stereotypes and portrayals of South Asian women don’t tell the full story.
“I think Western media wants to represent South Asian women as oppressed,” Singh said, “They don’t represent women that are claiming their rights.”
Alumnus and Pakistani Faraz Anjum said it is not accurate to say all Pakistani men oppose women’s education, although in some regions women still are oppressed and the population is a “bit prehistoric.”
Anjum said for those growing up in Faisalabad, a large city in northern Pakistan, both boys and girls are expected to go to school and prepare to work.
“It depends on the area and the education of the group you are asking,” Anjum said.
“It’s different when you think of it as a country (whose) literacy rate isn’t that high.”
Human biology junior Josh Shafquat said at times he feels torn between the Western media’s portrayal of Pakistan because he is an American citizen of Pakistani heritage.
Shafquat said the change Yousafzai and other Pakistani activists are hoping for won’t be instantaneous.
“You can’t change a culture overnight, it’s going to take time,” he said.