Burka Avenger strikes!

Will it change anything? Read few comments.

Questions:

1. How important is in your opinion to emphasize the problem of women’s education in Pakistan and maybe also more generally the problem of the education as many children in Pakistan are still out of school?

2. Do you think that stories on Malala Yousafzai or Burka Avenger series can make somehow a difference in Pakistan or they might be more interesting for the outside audience but perhaps less for Pakistani public?

Answers:

Anita Weiss, Professor and Head, Department of International Studies, University of Oregon

1. It’s incredibly important that this be emphasized. Having an educated population is Pakistan’s best change of overcoming many of the pressing development challenges the country is now facing. While the growing religious conservatism, prompted by a great number of things, has effectively transformed state and society in Pakistan, this will be small in comparison to the huge impact that the growing numbers of educated women will have on Pakistan in the future. Educated women will not sit by passively and allow their economic, political and human rights to be ignored. Even the International Islamic University in Islamabad — arguably the most conservative of the various major universities in the capital city — now has 3,000 girls enrolled in their Women’s Business programs. These girls will be venturing forward and getting jobs, voting, and won’t sit by passively as their mothers and grandmothers did before them.

2. These are two very different ‘stories’ and I think have different effects. Malala (who I know fairly well; have known her father for some four years) rose to prominence here only after the Taliban shot her. Few people in Pakistan had followed her BBC blogs, and events surrounding her have been highly politicized in Pakistan. The value that her story could have had here has become lost in that politicization (i.e., that she represents western values, and other incredibly outrageous accusations).

But the Burka Avenger is something different. I’m enthusiastic to read about future story lines, what issues she’ll engage in to set right and ‘avenge.’ On a related note, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has just canceled the results from two polling areas in this week’s by-elections because they did not allow women to vote. It would be great to see if the Burka Avenger takes up this kind of storyline, or at least something to send a message to girls about their right to vote, to work, to travel, etc.

Sagarika Dutt, Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Relations, Nottingham Trent University

Families cannot get out of poverty unless they educate both their sons and daughters. I would like to recall, at this point, that one of the Millennium Development Goals is to achieve universal primary education. Another MDG is to promote gender equality and empower women.

I am aware of the Malala Yousafzai case and support the campaign to promote girls’ education in Pakistan and elsewhere. I think most Pakistanis are in favour of educating their daughters. The problem is  that some areas of Pakistan are still quite backward and as a  result various Islamist groups are trying to control the population in these areas and imposing their conservative ideology on them. Marriage has always been the basis of social order in south Asian societies and controlling women and marrying them off at an early age has always been the norm.

I must admit that I have not watched the series you have  mentioned in your email, Burka Avenger, so I cannot comment on it. However, I think that it could appeal to educated Pakistani  youth.

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