Pakistan certainly does not have an unblemished record as far as the rights of women are concerned. Almost daily we hear of new cases of abuse, the rate of ‘honour’ killings continues to climb and – according to the UN – the literacy rate for women in the country stands at only around 40 percent. In this situation, there is welcome news. Twenty-four young women have become the first females to qualify as paratroopers after undergoing a vigorous course of training. The women made their first jumps on Sunday, and were duly honoured with their colours as qualified paratroopers. Showing the courage and determination associated too infrequently with their gender in our country, these women had broken barriers by being inducted into the air force as fighter pilots in 2006. Stories of their success in fields previously barred to them have continued to come in since then. Indeed, Pakistan is ahead of many developed countries in giving women space to show their skills in combat situations as part of its military. Many countries still do not allow their women such honours. Pakistan also has women commercial pilots flying its passenger aircraft; this too is not a norm even in those nations that are ahead of us in other ways.
The example set by the military in this respect is a truly commendable one. It shows that, when given the opportunity, women are capable of executing all kinds of tasks with as much precision and expertise as their male counterparts. This is reason enough to push them forward and encourage them to excel in all walks of life. The paratroopers have set an example that others need to follow. By doing so, women will be able to move forward in society, take up a more productive role within it and bring in social and economic benefits for their families and society as a whole. The paratroopers have demonstrated that women themselves are eager to move into non-traditional roles. They must now be encouraged to do so in all kinds of spheres so that we can work towards closing the wide gender gap that still exists and creating more equity between men and women in all walks of life.