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Pakistani Women Forced To Defy Norms And Get Jobs

Pakistani Women Forced To Defy Norms And Get Jobs

More and more Pakistani women are being forced by economic need to get jobs outside the household, decisions which are necessary but also potentially dangerous because they openly flout their families’ religious and cultural conventions.  The recent trend of lower-class women who have entered service-sector jobs is related to inflation, which has spiked to 12.7 percent from 1.4 percent over the past seven years. 

As a result, it’s impossible for one salary to feed an entire family.  This is transforming work environments like the fast-food industry; for example, female employment at KFC in Pakistan has risen 125 percent over the past five years.

Going to work, however, is not easy.  Some restaurants have been forced to offer transit services for women to protect them from harassment and hostility; others are abused by customers or have their uniforms confiscated by family members.  Women say that men assume that because they accepted jobs outside the home, they are sexually promiscuous, and others explain that their family members offered to pay them to stay at home.  The extra services that employers have to offer their female employees make some reluctant to hire women. 

“We’re a society in transition,” Zeenat Hisam, a senior researcher at the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research, told the New York Times. “Men in Pakistan haven’t changed, and they’re not changing as fast as our women. Men want to keep their power in their hand.  The majority of the people here believe in the traditional interpretation of Islam, and they get very upset because religious leaders tell them it’s not proper for women to go out and to work and to serve strange men.”

This trend has, unsurprisingly, mostly been confined to rural areas.  Pakistan’s female work force, at around 20 percent, is among the lowest of Muslim countries, and even companies like KFC employ 90 percent men.  It will be interesting, though, to see whether this new economic need starts to change gender norms, and whether it will start to become more socially acceptable for women to work.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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67 comments

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7:52AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Economics often change perceptions, by necessity.

Here's to the future!!!

1:26AM PST on Jan 4, 2011

Maybe this can help empower women who feel they have no option. I just hope it doesn't hurt anyone in the process.

3:12AM PST on Jan 3, 2011

never did agree with Islamic law, try that in my country and u will hear from me women have rights here and don't ever try and take that away from me i like having my own money and no one to tell me how to spend it.

10:33PM PST on Jan 2, 2011

Thanx for post...

3:56PM PST on Jan 2, 2011

Welcome to the real world. Families everywhere can't survive on on salary.

11:44PM PST on Dec 31, 2010

Hopefully, this will lead the way to more freedoms for women.

12:18PM PST on Dec 31, 2010

Are the religious leaders that don't consider proper for women to go out to work going to help them maintaining their families? If not, they have no say in the matter.
As for women and out of home work, the problem is not that women have "left" home and their children. It is that people are not being considered. Your life revolving around job, with little time for your family, doesn't sounds good. And the answer is not having one person (the woman) take care of the children and housework while the other (the man) is out for hours to bring money home. It is making posible for men and women to have time for work and family.

9:12PM PST on Dec 30, 2010

Time marches on.

3:26PM PST on Dec 30, 2010

Need 20 more butterflies to plant a couple of trees for the New Years so in AnaP fashion;

A WORLD HUG & HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL :D

2:27PM PST on Dec 30, 2010

Has anyone read the article under education titled "Homeless in High School?" This is what I am talking about in regards to social structure and the improtance of a solid family core with the Mother at the center.

Still read the post for those living the experience in Pakistan... ... :) a smile in any language is the same.

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