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Abstract

In Pakistan, women’s empowerment has always been a subjective matter of debate among the media, civil society and the state machinery because of its multifarious connotations and dimensions. The focus of my study is to evaluate how, along with many other agents of modernization (for example, media, state legislation, and civil society), female education plays a fundamental role in transforming the traditionally conceived submissive role of Punjabi women into individuals, whose potentials are fully realized. Although in comparison with males, the female literacy rate and workforce percentages have been disappointing in Pakistan. Nevertheless some improvement can be witnessed, depending on the geographic location. This study, through a survey questionnaire and focused group discussions targeting undergraduate female university students of Punjab, observes that in comparison with illiterate women, educated and professional women are not only sensitized but also equipped to deal with various issues of life, ranging from health to financial needs. My findings from qualitative and quantitative data analysis further imply that despite gaining education and professional expertise a majority of women are not completely free in their decisions about basic personal matters of life like marriage, divorce, mobility and claims over ancestral inheritance. The results of my research indicate various reasons for this lacuna. First, are centuries old gender biased socio-cultural practices, which unlike for men, confine, scrutinize and specify the roles of women in society. Second, is misinterpretation of religion by orthodoxy, overlooking the contextual meaning of Quranic verses. These cultural practices and religious orientations are two separate domains; however, in Pakistani society over a period of time, these distinctive realms have overlapped in ways that have become difficult to disentangle, for common individuals. My research concludes that there is a need to transform the mind-set of the over-all society through effective education, mass media campaigns (print, electronic and social), and civil society support in order for society to begin to understand the value of women’s education with an endorsement of their equal rights in all decisions of their lives, manifesting women’s empowerment as a reality.

Note on the Author

Dr. Shehzadi Zamurrad Awan is an Assistant Professor at Forman Christian College University in Lahore, Pakistan. She writes on gender related issues. Her PhD dissertation is on “Placement of Women in Changing Socio-cultural Environment of Punjab, Pakistan”.

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