By: SHAZIA HASAN
KARACHI: What was supposed to be a seminar to celebrate the bravery and love for education of young Malala Yousafzai after her historic speech at the United Nations Youth Assembly on the occasion of her 16th birthday became a stage for arguments between political parties about who has done what for education.
The seminar on ‘Women’s Education and Terrorism’ organised by the South Asian Women Media (SAWM) and South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) at the Karachi Press Club on Friday started smoothly, though a little late as Sindh Minister for Education Nisar Ahmed Khuhro had not arrived on time. Still the organisers decided to go ahead with the programme after receiving word that the minister would be joining at around 6pm, which he did eventually.
Speaking first, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA Dr Seema Zia questioned traditions where girls were married to the holy book and people’s view that educating girls would make them revolt or follow Western trends.
“Unfortunately we are mentioning women’s education and terrorism in the same phrase. What kind of people have we become, targeting little girls in the name of religion? Are these Islamic traditions?” she asked.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Kishwer Zehra said that Malala was now a symbol for girls’ education. “Awareness and education is very important but it is sad that terrorists have used Islam for their mean intentions of keeping women away from education. If the mothers of these terrorists were educated, they would not be doing all these shameful things that they do like blowing themselves up during suicide bombing attacks,” she said.
Dr Samrina Hashmi of the Awami Workers Party shared some figures and findings about education and its importance for Pakistan. “According to the UNDP, the secondary education ratio in Pakistan is 0.5. There are fewer baby deaths in homes where the mothers have studied till class eight. Smart genes are also passed on to the children from their mothers and not from their fathers,” she said.
“Then women learn how to build social relationships through education. Education also helps them gain self-respect and confidence. Women also need to gain technical education,” she added.
“If the government does not take steps to end Talibanism, and acts like the spreading fear among polio workers after attacks on their teams, no woman will step out of her home for the betterment of others. We need to change this thinking of keeping women locked up inside their homes if we want to reach the Millennium Development Goals,” she added.
Mehtab Akbar Rashdi, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA, regretted that the country’s name was associated with so many negative things. “But we Pakistanis are a resilient people,” she was optimistic in view of Malala’s bravery and refusal to give up her dream.