The status of Gender studies in Pakistan is currently growing day by day. The subject of Women and Gender Studies and related theories evolved in the West and are generally being understood from those perspectives. In the CSS examination questions about the current scenario of women, status is very important. That’s why studying the status of gender studies in Pakistan at the current time is of utmost benefit.
The subject is being taught in Pakistani universities in the same pattern and with almost the same contents as in Europe and other countries.
While knowing various perspectives is important, the absence of content in an indigenous context and by indigenous writers makes the whole exercise less relevant to society.
Status & History of Gender Studies in Pakistan
Pakistani society has its peculiarities and there is a need to develop indigenous material on the subject in the local socio-cultural context keeping in view the requirements, aspirations, nature, and behaviors of the people of Pakistan as well as the belief and value system of the society.
To introduce the discipline in the country, “the Center of Excellence for Gender Studies” (CEWS) was established as a project in 1989) by the Ministry of Women Development, Government of Pakistan, in five public Universities. For the last 21 years, CEWS has had a special appeal to students from all over the country.
The first MA in Women’s Studies in Pakistan began in 1996 at the University of Karachi. In 2002 Centre initiated M.Phil / Ph.D. program.
In 2004, the discipline of Women’s Studies was introduced as a subsidiary course at First Year (Hons.) level.
In January 2007 BS (Hons.) 4 years program was launched and in January 2010 M.A (Evening) program has also started.
Innovative courses and seminars offered at the Centre, and research conducted here, aims at generating a functional knowledge base to identify hitherto under-used and neglected human resources for national growth.
The Pakistan Association for Women’s Studies (PAWS) has also been working very active since its inception in 1991 at the National Workshop on “Women’s Studies” which was organized as A Pakistani Perspective by the Centre of Excellence in Women’s Studies at the University of Karachi.
PAWS was formed in March 1991 in Karachi by activists and academics with feminist consciousness to act as a catalyst to bring about the empowerment of women, transforming a gender-biased society into one inclusive of gender equity and social justice. The objectives set by the PAWS include the following:
- To provide a forum for interaction and coordination for those engaged in teaching, research, or action for women’s studies and women’s development.
- To build solidarity among women’s studies, and practitioners globally.
- To identify, re-examine and develop feminist research and training methodologies which are relevant to the Pakistani situation.
- To undertake participatory/action-oriented research that is sensitive to issues of gender and development in Pakistan and the region of South Asia.
- To strengthen the capabilities of Pakistani women researchers through training, education, and research activities. To assist women in developing their resources for self-employment.
- To network with individuals and groups working for the elimination of discrimination against women.
- To report and translate research findings in a manner usable by policymakers and relevant groups.
- To organize conferences, seminars, workshops, and short courses on women’s studies and feminist issues with the purpose of promoting and defending the interest in women’s studies.
- To network with Pakistani women within Pakistan and Pakistani women living in other countries and with women from other parts of the rest of the world who are concerned with gender-sensitive research and training
Currently, In Pakistan, at the university and doctoral level, Women and Gender Studies are flourishing swiftly.
The biggest number of Students-both male and female are seeking admission to AIOU, Islamabad; however, it has yet to introduce Ph.D. programs.
Other local public sector Universities, besides private sector Institutions, offer MSc./Ph.D. including The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, Szabist, Islamabad, University of Sindh Jamshoro, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Lahore, University of the Punjab Lahore, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, University of Peshawar, Women University, Islamabad and Many other educational entities.
Current Status of Gender Studies in Pakistan
In the current age and time, there is a dire need to not only integrate gender concerns in established disciplines of social sciences but also to introduce it as an optional subject at secondary, intermediate, and bachelor’s levels.
Although there is a dearth of native writing and reliable statistics courses need to be conceived with an indigenous perspective. We should avoid labeling Westernization on the discipline and bring in Islamic feminist discourse parallel with liberal, radical, conservative, and secular scholarship.
It is the need of the hour to develop a feminist standpoint with local cultural context and intellectual context and represent dimensions of contemporary thought and consciousness.
Identification and determination of the scope and gravity of issues that constitute topics of study in this discipline should be based upon objective research and actual realization of ground realities.
Efforts in this regard should be focused on strengthening the institution of family, which is a prerequisite for establishing a model society.
Islam provides solutions to contemporary challenges and there is a need to bring feminist thought and struggle into its paradigm. This would help the women’s rights activists in gaining immediate and larger support in society.
As an underlying concept, it should be kept in mind that the status and respective roles of males and females in social life are not the same, but this must not cause anyone to think that either of the two genders is superior or inferior to the other. They complement each other and thus two halves make one whole.
Women or gender studies departments in the universities need to work closely with other departments and especially the Islamic studies and law departments to promote inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches. This will help in understanding gender-related issues in a socio-cultural context and devise a pragmatic approach for reformation.
Even in our society, there are different shades of opinion on each issue even though they share several common features. All these shades should reflect in the indigenous discourse and the agenda proposed to advance in achieving greater gender harmony and should incorporate all such thought sets.
A series of lectures may be conducted to articulate indigenous perspectives on topics of gender and women’s studies courses. There is a need to study different fields of knowledge in the context of gender and highlight the role of women in various fields of human activity.
Several examples of women taking an active and essential part in developing and advancing human life even in non-traditional roles may be cited from our tradition. These need to be highlighted and it needs to be underscored that society can be constructed to ensure enhanced participation of women in life without disintegrating the institution of the family.