By Farah Kamal
28, May 2012
They say, “Behind every successful man there’s a woman”. It may be very true indeed, but what about successful women? Trust me, there can surely be men behind them too! This might appear to be mere exaggeration or some wishful thinking; however It can be entirely true as well. Looking around, speaking to successful women, men do influence and impact the career and success of women; exactly the way women do on the men.
Here I am specifically talking about the educated urban masses where Pakistani men are often criticized for their dominating positions, disliked for being control freaks, mostly the biggest hurdle in the professional lives of women. Above all, the women’s rights data on abusive men and gender disparity abhorring them Nevertheless, there is always a flip side of the coin! Our society is not completely devoid of supportive men, there are men who instead of subjecting women to honour killings, honour them as accomplished individuals and professionals. They take pride in allowing women to work and pursue a career; most importantly they share their dreams, aspirations, and applaud their success.
No, it’s not fiction! Less in numbers they maybe, but they exist! Just not much talked about; they are seldom celebrated or openly appreciated. In a society which is generally full of sad stories of suppressed and subjugated women, are also women like Saima, a high profile English Professor, from Kurram Agency, who said; “My husband not only allowed me to work but he supports and enjoys my work too.” As I was writing this article during the lunch break at a recent seminar, another accomplished professional women and a mom of four Rehana from Karachi, shared, “My husband has been invincible shield and strong wall that helped me climb the success ladder”.
Speaking of myself, I enjoy the prestige of being a much celebrated, successful career woman and a proud mom; with valuable contributions to society under my strings. I would not have been where I am, if it were not for the men in my life. Men can play a quintessential role in liberating women making them fulfilled individuals rather than confirming to their traditional image as oppressors.
Starting from my grand dad teaching me philosophy of Iqbal, holding me in his lap; when I was still in Pre School, thus inculcating this whole idea of doing something exceptional My father, despite all the struggles of a large growing family, would always support me in studies making sure I continued through my bachelor’s degree. When I stepped into my professional life, working girls were considered a shame for the family. He had to put up with many taunts and side glances of neighbours and relatives and stood by me to let me work. The positive influence of men in women’s professional life can be multiplied and replicated in society only if more men realize how they could make a difference.
Most girls are uncertain about their career plans as they take the marriage vows. Shahana, a graduate from Home Economics College working for a food company was made to resign from her job a week before her Nikah! My mom told my in-laws to make a decision about weather I would continue to work or not. However, the phenomenal and a steep rise came in my career, because of my husband who was exceptionally passionate about supporting my dreams to get higher education from an international university. Here he was, pushing me to accept a scholarship that I was reluctant to avail because of my toddler. He sold his car to pay the airfare, helped me parenting the baby and stood by me throughout the tough time of juggling with family, career and education. Feeling proud of my every little achievement – listening, sharing, believing in my vision and helping me achieve my highest potential
It is not only about men permitting women to work, study, or what a women aspires to do in life. More important is to own, share and feel proud of her achievements.
My career path did not stop here, with the kind of freedom and support I enjoyed; I would constantly come up with innovative ideas. So, here I was planning on a new venture; an entrepreneurial initiative. I found my old time colleague and friend, a man again; who is always there to ensure these ideas and visions are translated into concrete realities. His statement ‘go ahead, I am game for it’ is always the kick off point of a range of national and international level initiatives, which I am proud of. He taught me the intricacies of social entrepreneurship and management. “I am always there’; his statement that kept me from falling down, resulting in an expanding and ever successful career.
As a colleague and friend, it makes a world of difference if men keep themselves above any unhealthy competition with women. Many lives would change if they accept the fact that women can be as smart as themselves or even better, and it is completely normal to join them in their endeavours and support them.
Men can do a great contribution to the society adding to an effective and productive workforce of Pakistan, if only they accept and give respect to women team leaders in the same way as they do to their male counterparts. It is very common that working women face hostile attitude from male colleagues, they are considered as wasting a lucrative spot and that they are non serious in work or must not compete for promotion or progress. It is all about rising above their innate superiority complex and coming out of insecurities of strengthening women and working alongside them.
By now, many of you might be thinking that these are few odd examples; men in general are not that supportive. Yes, agreed, there are not very many like this. What is stopping them to be one and multiply? The whole idea is for men to realize and understand how important it is for the male part of the Pakistani population to not only let women to be professionals, but also to stand by them against all odds. They can make a world of difference not to their families and communities, but also to the entire country. It is very important to be sensitive to the fact that nation building not only requires great men but supporting the other half of the society in doing so is equally productive.