‘Women Empowerment’ leading the society into a quagmire of Ignorance?

Eminent director and play-writer, Amin Iqbal, provides valuable insight concerning his idea of “Women Empowerment” and how the subject has evolved from liberation and enlightenment to contention and degeneration.

Amin Iqbal, director of upcoming movie, ‘Rehbra’-The Soul Of Love, raises awareness on the subject of women’s rights with assistance from his personal encounters that have encouraged him to subscribe to certain ideologies the members of this society seem to conveniently dismiss.

I was five years old, when my mother asked me,

“Do you wish to live with me, or your father?

I was awfully young and the question left me feeling terrified – A frivolous boy, unaware of his surroundings, oblivious to the harsh realities of life. The only thing I knew for sure, was that did not wish to be separated from either one of my parents, especially my mother. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the woman who raised me. Neither could I allow myself to say goodbye to my father.

My memory is a blur, however, I dintinctly recall the events that took place in that moment, instigating one of the the most integral questions I have encountered in life; my father had slapped my mother and refused to apologize for what he had done. Mother grabbed her shawl and held my hand as left home and climbed on the bus from Multan to Lahore. Upon leaving the house, I asked mother, “How come the woman in the neighborhood survives those brutal slaps each day but refuses to leave her house? Is she not Human?” , Mother was silent. “Will we ever see dad again?” I innocently asked. In response to which mother told me that father would not let us leave the city, he will stop us before we reach Lahore and she spoke these words with uttermost conviction. To my surprise, she was right. My father came running to the bus station at Sahiwaal and apologized to mother whilst exhibiting a keen sense of remorse. We returned home that evening.

The issue was rather petty, my mother had left the house wearing a “chaddar” instead of the “Bhurqa” that afternoon, which infuriated my father and promoted him to physically hurt her.

I vividly recall the golden, heart-wrenching words of my mother – On the way to Sahiwaal, she educated me regarding the value a woman intrinsically holds, and she educated me about the fundamental human rights a woman is entitled to. “Just like any man, a woman has a soul, she is not soul-less” she explained. Mothers innocently asked me what a man can possibly achieve by physically abusing a woman.

“Physical abuse and domination is not a sign or masculinity”, she said.

“Why does a woman not have the right to live her life the way SHE wants?” she asked.

The words of my mother remained in the stillness of my cerebrum, playing on repeat like an old, dysfunctional cassette ceasing to pause. It was a profound question, especially for a five year old, juvenile boy, incapable of understanding the circumstance. I carried the critical question with me as the years elapsed. It remained a mystery. I searched for the answer as I grew aware of my surroundings. Years rolled on, and I began to manifest and dissect the ideologies constructed by this society concerning the empowerment of women. I would seek religious insight, in attempts of landing upon some significant answers, while other times I’d seek enlightenment from the Holy Quran. I jumped on the bandwagon and found myself entangled in the superficial, socially driven debates; hollow and unveiling. The relentless downpour of questions rendered me helpless. The state of confusion consumed me, like dust covering the furniture of a dilapidated house. My mind wandered and brooded as I dived deeper into the substructure and the essence of the problem, and asked myself, “When a man invests and devotes himself, provides safety and protection for his family, diligently works to ensure financial security for the woman, gives his all for his family, whole-heartedly, takes it upon himself to ensure his sisters are happily married with all his blessings, then why do women despise men so passionately?

Upon years of research and observation, I landed upon the ultimate conclusion. I was exposed to a rather intriguing perspective – Women should work and expand their horizon, they make up 52% of the world’s population, till women don’t start building careers, our society can’t possibly prosper and reach its maximum potential. All over the world, women work and feel empowered, and are accepted as human beings who are entitled to their basic human rights. Did it never occur to us that countless women in our society, holding roots from different provinces are excelling at what they do; we somehow dismiss the integral role of the women living in rural areas as they substantially contribute to our agricultural industry. Undoubtedly, these women are the “backbone of the development of rural and national economies”. These women guarantee livelihoods and assist the men of the house. Their diligence and hard work concerning agricultural production ensures self-sustenance and the income of their family members. Upon manifesting the value a woman holds, I realized that in the urbanized districts of Pakistan, the difference between a man and a women has been so unreasonably glorified, as a result of which, we have built all these ideological walls of superiority and inferiority, leading the society into a quagmire of ignorance, wherein the man and the woman have started to dislike one another. In contradistinction to building a house-hold system of support and unity, a working woman has become the source of a man’s insecurity and marriages between working-couples is about competing with one another.

So what really went wrong? I once read somewhere, “when we begin to hate someone from the core of our hearts, we are subconsciously driven to adapt their flaws and shortcomings.” – I believe that’s precisely what happened. Women inherited every worst possible trait of a man under the guise of “freedom” and ‘empowerment”, as a result of this direction of evolvement, the society (myself included) began advocating for women’s rights via literary forums as we worked towards helping them achieve the liberation and freedom a man has always been entitled to. However, unfortunately, we miserably failed to give her what she truly deserves; respect.

Here is what I managed to excavate: Instead of eliminating the multitudes of hate between the woman and man, we aggravated the situation and created a sense of divide. It’s an absolute shame. We did nothing to empower her soul, instead, we pushed her down to the spiraling sphere of capitalism.

Practically every drama serial produced in the entertainment industry has sworn to victimize the woman. Why must every narrative feature a storyline where the woman plays the victim? We fail to understand the essence of these flawed perception’s deeply embedded in the realms of our society, it is not the woman we need to educate. It is the man. Only my mother truly understood and internalized what I’m attempting to communicate, a mother, who supposedly lived a life where she was subject to oppression and misery.

One single slap managed to teach everything concerning the manner in which I was supposed to treat my wife and daughters. It served to be the instructional manual to empowering the soul of a woman, as opposed to instilling despondency and contempt for the man within their ideological structure. Through the questions evoked by that one slap, I had learnt how to liberate women, and educate them to live a life where they grow and merit respect in its truest form.

I witnessed my father live a life, trapped within the bleak confines of misery, rendered powerless by the unforgiving shackles of excruciating guilt and regret, emanating from hurting the woman who sacrificed everything for him. But what baffles me most, is the quintessential man in this society, who would betray a woman and devalue her existence using empowerment as an excuse, while ironically, he wishes to marry the woman who has a lucrative career ahead – Her finances are welcome, but her empowered existence is blatantly denied.


Article by Amin Iqbal

Translated by ; Shehr Bano Hussain

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