Because I’ve found a greater difference between urban and village life in the same country than between urban dwellers in different countries, I wanted to hear about a girl’s daily life in a rural area. Reading over 65 survey responses from educated Pakistani girls, none of them mention wanting to be housewives. Typically they want to help the poor, teach, design clothes, or be in business. I asked Hassan (a university student there) about this: “Deep down, 80% of them would get married and remain housewives or have a very nominal job at the most. This is how the role of women shapes up as they grow in this society to take care of their homes, have a wonderful family and are well-settled so their parents feel satisfied.” I asked about his two sisters. “One of my sisters finished her Masters in Business Administration and currently working for a non-profit organization in Human Resource section. She earns well and her husband is very supportive. (Her husband is my first cousin). My other sister just started university. My father believes in education-before-everything policy. We’ve faced some hard times but education has always remained our priority, even before food.”
Aspirations are very different for rural girls, as you’ll read in an interview with Mashal, an illiterate girl in northern Pakistan where 71% live in villages. Half the school-age children don’t have access to government schools and 41% of young women ages 15 to 24 are illiterate, one of the lowest country literacy rates in the world. Only one-third of Pakistani young people are in primary school, so extremist Muslim Madrassas provide an affordable alternative for some boys but not girls of course. Pakistan is second- to-last place in worldwide rankings of gender equality, according the to Global Gender Gap Report 2012. Hassan points out that some “ghost schools” exist in the records but don’t have teachers who come to class. A popular singer, Shehzad Roy (born 1977), rides on a motorcycle around Pakistan filming schools to show his TV viewers the deplorable condition of schools. His show is called Chal Parha, meaning “Come, Teach.” However, even village girls I’ve Skyped with there mentioned wanting to be nurses or teachers.