Fly away ladies!

Flight PK-623 created a unique aviation record for the national air carrier, PIA, when a woman pilot and her all-woman crew flew a PIA Fokker plane without any assistance from men. Captain Ayesha Rabia Naveed was in command of the flight, which transported 40 passengers from Islamabad to Lahore. The success of the flight has negated the assumption that women are less disposed to excel in male-oriented fields. Gender relations in Pakistan rest on two basic perceptions: that women are subordinate to men, and that a man’s honour resides in the actions of the women of his family. Thus, as in other orthodox Muslim societies, women are responsible for maintaining the family honour. To ensure that they do not dishonour their families, society limits women’s mobility, places restrictions on their behaviour and activities, and permits them only limited contact with the opposite sex. For years the role that a Pakistani woman played as a citizen, a member of the family, or a homemaker has been highly under-appreciated and today it has turned into a habit to degrade a woman’s ability. Despite this, over the years this scenario has changed, and the awareness of women’s abilities, rights and status has spread to all parts of Pakistan.

By now, it has been proved in practice that given equal opportunity, women can perform as well or even better than men in most areas. Brains are the deciding factor in this high technology age, not muscles. A century ago, Marie Curie surpassed her husband Pierre and all her male colleagues in scientific achievements. The Nobel Prize-winner was also a mother who raised two daughters alone after the premature death of her husband. Within reason, nothing is impossible in this world. Women and men are not fundamentally different. It is an injustice to women, and to society’s detriment that they are not allowed to compete with men. If we were all raised equally, we would see that everyone has the same basic capabilities. People shouldn’t judge solely on the basis of gender, but on an individual’s ability and talent. It would be that “perfect world” some of us dream of. But it is not as far away as we think. After all, great accomplishments were once dreams. If more parents raised their children as children, without imposing any of society’s gender boundaries on them, who knows what could happen? Society doesn’t change overnight but it is clear that it does change. We can raise children who see the world as their oyster, no matter if they are male or female.

It was Jinnah’s vision to see his country free from any gender bias. As he once said, “No nation can rise to the heights of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.” To make this vision a reality: fly away ladies, the sky is the limit!

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