Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why the lack of Pukhtun Women's Leadership - Part I

I've been asking Pukhtuns on Twitter and Facebook what they think are some of the major obstacles to Pukhtun women's leadership--i.e., why is there a lack of leadership among Pukhtun women? Why are they threatened and, in some cases (re: Farida Afridi, Malalai Kakar), killed? Why is our society (both men AND women) intimidated by a woman's voice, a woman's leadership, a woman's presence? Why do we feel the need to make the woman feel invisible?

I have my own thoughts on this (peghor (basically, people's talks and taunts, intended solely to offend someone's honor), shame, honor, lack of confidence--I don't think education has much to do with it), which can be accessed via SafeWorldForWomen. But until then, these are some of the responses I've received. More are still welcomed and appreciated!

1. I ascribe it to lack of education and in turn restricted exposure, esp. on part of men (not necessarily men of the family only) and to the way honor is so tied up with women.
        My response: Honor - good, I'm glad you mentioned that. I think it's all entirely because of our ideas of honor, a rather misogynistic understanding of honor that exploits and harms women -- and doesn't really help men or the rest of society at all. Honor. The fear of people's talks and stares. Publicity coming to a woman and hence peghor ...

2.  forget about leadership, i would be very happy if they are given their basic rights and made equal to men. History has shown that Pukhtun women can be a lot more if given the opportunities.
        My response: True - but I think Pukhtun women leaders have contributed, and continue to contribute, FAR more to improving Pukhtun women's situation than any man ever has. That's why I don't think that being seen as equal, etc. should come first. No one saw our current women leaders as equals--they fought, they struggled, they "rebelled," they resisted, they lost hope at times ... but they persisted, and they ultimately won. Look how far they've come, and look how much they've done for other women.

3. The Pakhtuns men need to be educated properly and need to rise above their present way of thinking, in other words achieve enough confidence in themselves and Change their mindset.. It's all along backward men to be blame.
          My response: That's definitely true to a large extent. But I wish I could believe it was entirely men's fault or entirely the fault of our lack of education. Oftentimes, women are the worst enemies of other women (I can speak from personal experience: my "enemy" is actually this one Pukhtun woman--and she claims to be a woman's rights champion as well. (Hypocritical, I know. But as the saying goes, you must be doing nothing important if you've got no haters.) Among Pukhtun men, they're actually very supportive. Not that I think of myself as a leader or anything, but just talking about my writing about women's issues and such.)

4. Khaze da taaweele maaweele na khlassegee no leadership da para warsara wakht nishta lol [Translation: Woman doesn't have time for leadership, since she's always busy gossiping or creating problems and misunderstandings. ("taaweele maaweele" = "he says, she says")]
          My response:  lol ... that's true for a lot of our women indeed ... but I'm still certain that's not one of our major obstacle :)

5. Because They are still asking men " What are the Problems."

6. it's kinda rare to meet a pukhtanah who is dying2make social change instead of watching humsafar?maybe it's their own fault?lazy?

7. because of pushtoon MEN :)
          My response: You don't think other women or their talks has anything to do with it? :)
           7: yeah thats also a point but its also due to huge domination of men in pukhton society.

8. the men in their family claiming 'sharam de'(it's shameful)

9.  Education

10. Cultural Bias and Societal Pressure. Not only Pashtun women but all over the world.

11. education ;the society ; and people 's perception ; taboos etc ..

12. i think certain myths- women r stupid, women r emotional, they r weak, they r only to cook food & produce children etc

13. social pressure, threatened by cutting off support or social boycott.

14. But they are the ones who keep family together that takes more strength & endurance than any man can ever have

15. A very imp point Abt culture is missing, jirga is one of them. because if u r not involved in observing or making decisions u can't b a leader & unfortunately women r not part of Jirga. Jirga is the authority making decisions & historically women r not part of it I think that may be the reason. because if u r not involved in observing or making decisions u can't b a leader & unfortunately women r not part of Jirga

Bushra Gohar, a leading Pukhtun woman politician, has several interviews online about her political involvement as well as Pukhtun women, their problems and obstacles, and women & ANP (Awami National Party, the Pukhtun political party in NW Pakistan). Here is one from 2010. There's one on Viewpoint that she gave me the link to yesterday, but apparently, you've to log in to read it. I was able to view it on my phone but not can't from PC. Here's the link.

And for a list of Pashtun women leadership (under Pashtun leaders in general), please click here. We do have inspiration--we just have to know where to look :)

Thanks to everyone's answers! I hope we'll continue talking about this.


  1. inspiration. Pakhtun girls dont have anyone to look up to and its hard being the first or only one standing up for something.

    1. Salaam, Anon!
      Thank you for your comment.

      Well, that's very true - we do lack inspiration. But I wonder if that's probably because we don't know of the many Pashtun women who actually do make wonderful role models for us. Among them: Samar Minallah, Fauzia Minallah, Bushra Gohar, Shaheen Sardar Ali, and several others as listed under the above page titled "Pashtun Leaders" ( We should make sure to keep up with these female leaders and emerging ones whenever we need inspiration :)

  2. Why cant Pukhtoon women be leaders. There is one woman whom we in the family talk about with pride, and that is my aunt Zari Sarfaraz. How strong and determuned she was, a true inspiration to us all. I would like to see the ideals of my Great Uncle Abdul Ghaffar Khan be followed. He was a true patron of equality for women in every aspect of life. Education is the that will unlock everyones minds. Our girls should have the opertunity to be educated above and beyond everything else.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Anonymous :)
      Ahhh, I just looked up Begum Zari Sarfaraz! So delighted to know about her now! Thank you for mentioning her.

      And Bacha Khan - surely, his views on gender equality, women's empowerment, women's full participation in the society are almost unheard of in our society today. It's such a shame we seem to be going backward rather than forward. He was a true leader. May he rest in peace and may his legacy live on forever, aameen!

  3. aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh damn my whole comment got lost.... let me recal it ... women absence in leadership is universal what to talk of only pukhtun society. lets talk of southasia, benazir, indra gandi, haseena wajid, naseem wali all have been sucessful in politics as to their capacity but they have come to take over the platform already created by their husband or father and they have done brilliantly but if you remove the father/husband pillar all will wash out and chances will be that we would have never heard their names probably ... in theory everyone belives that adam = eve but practically everyone knows its cornot engine... a pukhtun society where birth of a daughter wasnt/isnt celebrated wont give any woman a fair chance to lead men at all... our society is mainly a muscular one, where bread earning was and is thought of being muscels only...with changing times ways of bread earning have changed and it has or some of its part has been shifted from muscles to brain , ever seen a family, where they have female bread earners (too), then u must have also seen they are also taking decisions (and that family male wont like to discuss this thing out or if discussed they would have created some self satisfaction reasons for women being bread earners)...nothing bad in it but accepting this thing whole heartedly is sure going to take some time... other aspect is of control of mullah in our society as mullah loves the tribal islam so he devised different rules for man and woman. we also have accepted the tribal islam be it sub consiously because its feed to us since infancy... other reason is the mothers/daughters/women are caught in vicious circle, where every mom teaches her daughters only that u can only be heroine or u r born only or its ur primary duty to scarify and accommodate ur bro dad or hubby or even be a fall guy to cover them (i.e swara) or if u stand for ur right u will be damned in this life and life hereafter... this message is passed from mother to daughter from her to her daughter and on ... so i guess leadership traits are not missing in pukhtun society but only conditions are missing to give them fair chance ( like in cricket, over cast condition will make any ordinary bowler into an extra ordinary swing non playable bowler) so far conditions are favouring men....p.s i m not sexist, wrote what ever came in mind and for writing mistakes i m sorry i haven re read the draft i was annoyed as my draft vanished once thanx...peace...


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