Published in The Frontier Post on 2 November 2014
Every year we have an orientation day for the new entrants in the university. After they have been introduced with the faculty and informed about the university rules, they are allowed to ask questions. Few years back one student asked a question that, “Why can’t you limit the intake of girl students. They just get married after graduation whereas boys struggle to find a job with low merit” To this one of the faculty members simply replied “Who has stopped you from studying. Why don’t you work hard. Also, allow your wife to work once you get married”
On 27 September 2014 Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) made its new admission policy public. According to this new policy, girls will not be given more than 50 percent seats even if they are on merit. The reason behind this decision of PMDC was the fact that girls don’t practice medical due to various reasons. Instead of addressing the real problem the government has conveniently decided to kill merit. Its like calling a heart surgeon to treat a bone fracture. Medical is a profession where a little negligence or incompetence can lead to someone’s death. PMDC is now openly allowing incompetent men to enter the field of medicine to avoid competent females.
Due to increasing number of female students its about time that we address the reasons behind them leaving their professions. Its never easy for a a women who has burned the midnight oil to acquire higher education to leave her profession. She has to make a choice between her family and a career, and its always the family that wins.
Countries like United Kingdom allow women to take one year leave after giving birth to a baby. This gives women enough time to spend with her newborn and breastfeed the baby for one year as recommended by the health department. Although, Pakistan is a Muslim country and Islam directs woman to breastfeed her children, women are only allowed to take 12 weeks maternity leave. Lactation break during working hours have never been given due consideration by the organizations hiring women. The woman is not even settled in her new role as a mother when she is required to go back to her work. This often results in a constant feeling of guilt of ignoring her baby and leaving him at the mercy of maids at this young age. This guilt leads to the decision of leaving professional life for good.
There are not enough day care centers where women can leave their children while they go to work. Also, there are no after school clubs where children can be occupied while mothers are at their workplace. Flexible working hours for women with small kids should also be introduced. Facilitating women in carrying out their familial duties will automatically result in women pursuing their careers. It is important to understand that given the opportunity women can lead a very successful career and a very happy family life. It needs to be understood that if you want a women to work you cannot ask her to choose either family or career. She cannot stop being a mother and a wife if she chooses a career. Working environments need to be made conducive for women. Killing merit will not solve the problem. It will instead aggravate the problems due to the incompetent lot who don’t have the merit for the jobs they are doing. This decision of PMDC makes me afraid that it will set a precedent. Tomorrow Pakistan Engineering Council might issue similar notification. Such biased decision will only result in limiting opportunities for women in every sphere of life where they already have too little choices to make.