A Pakistani female warrior tests the limits

In this day and age access to information and an education can happen at a click of a button, whether it is on your laptop, smartphone or iPad.

Women in Pakistan and some other countries don’t necessarily have that privilege. Being educated and knowing how to read and write in this globalized world is a social norm, but one woman in Pakistan who doesn’t possess any of those skills wants to make it into politics.

Crazy you may think, however many may find this inspirational. A Pakistani housewife is looking to break the barriers and find her way into the history books.

Badam Zari is from a conservative part of Pakistan where the emancipation of women isn’t even on the agenda. Purdah is located in a Taliban stronghold in the tribal belt that borders Afghanistan.

Let’s just remember the story of the young 15-year-old girl, Malala Yousefzai who was shot by the militants, an attempt by the Taliban to suppress the urge and a stand by a youth who was advocating for girls education. A future for her people.

Leap of faith

Zari on the other hand is in her early 50’s and says that she has nothing to fear. Most women who reside in these tribal areas are uneducated, illiterate and have rarely worked outside of their household. Zari is no exception.

She wants to stand up for her rights, break away from tradition and culture and find a way to highlight the plight of women in her area and the issues they are facing. Something she believes the government has ignored or pushed under the carpet.

The problem in Pakistan doesn’t necessarily stem from the government or laws banning women from being able to take part in the country’s political system, it comes from a deep-seeded tradition.

Sophie Ghaziri

Zari has pointed out that she is taking this leap of faith to help and be able to serve the girls, young women and mothers living in an area where most are seen as second-class citizens. She emphasized that health and education sectors are far and few between or relatively non-existent.

There are examples where females have broken into politics and held powerful positions in a male dominated country, for instance the late Prime Minister Benazir Butto, who was later assassinated.

The problem in Pakistan doesn’t necessarily stem from the government or laws banning women from being able to take part in the country’s political system, it comes from a deep seeded tradition, culture and belief system. Women and people living in Islamabad may be living a completely different life from those inhabiting rural areas and especially those in the hands of the Taliban.

Pressures

Females in those parts are submissive. When they are growing up they are under ‘the father figure,’ the man of the house who is the bread winner giving him that upper hand in deciding if they receive an education, who they will end up marrying and what would be expected of them.

From there they are then handed over to their husbands who fill the role of the father. Women in that part of the world are pressured into conceiving a male heir one who will provide for the family and when the father or husband passes on take the responsibility and be the man in charge.
So for fearless Zari to take this step and feel strong enough and passionate enough to break the boundaries even without an education is phenomenal. The media quoted even a government official who filed her application and her documents as saying the women was ‘courageous’.

It does take courage and the question is: can this one woman, this one female warrior make a difference?

Zari may have little chance at winning but her attempt needs to be recognized.

“I am contesting the election with passion, with a clean heart and a clear conscience. My passion is to educate the future generation, girls and women and serve them,” she told the media.

Due to reforms by the outgoing Pakistani government, a bid by them to lessen their grip of militancy, political parties can now contest elections for the first time in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

However, one thing remains. How can Zari attract the votes she needs to find her place in the political arena?

She says she is the first woman to put herself out there and grab the chance to make a difference, but will she end up going back to her female quarters after this media hype and end up not being allowed to gather and campaign for her cause?

Will these tribal areas ever open up? Is this the beginning of their ‘Arab Spring’ or just another lost knock at a closed door that might never open…?

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Sophie Ghaziri is a Shift Editor at Al Arabiya English. She has previously worked as a producer, presenter and a writer at the BBC, Al Jazeera and she was Head of English at Future News in Lebanon for 2 years. She can be followed on Twitter on: @sophieghaziri
 

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Last Update: Saturday, 06 April 2013 KSA 11:30 - GMT 08:30
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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