Nov 05 - 11, 2007

Meeting Professor Doctor Khalida Ghaus was a delightful and an overwhelming experience for me. A lady calmly seated in her office that is Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) where she is serving as the Managing Director.

She is not just an educationist but also carries within herself the persona that clearly outshines and identifies her as one of the successful women of their own fields in Pakistan. She has been associated with the field of education for the last twenty four years and she still loves to teach and research.

The Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) is a non-profit, policy research institute which was established in April 1995 as a limited company with headquarters in Karachi and Liaison Office in Islamabad, Pakistan. SPDC has made significant intellectual contribution in placing issues of pro-poor growth and social development on Pakistan's policy-making agenda. Main areas identified for research are: poverty, inequality, governance, provincial finances, social sector policies, gender issues and pro-poor macro economic policy.

Talking about her education background, she told that it is all from Karachi and she did her PhD from Karachi University too; except for few federal ships and scholarships she mainly completed her education in Karachi. She told that she was not a very serious kind of student while she was in her school and in college and was more involved in extra curricular activities however education has been strictly ordained for her basically and fundamentally because of the influence of both her parents who didn't leave her with much choice then to take up education seriously. And later when she entered into University after completing her college, the whole environment change made her more responsible to think as to what she wanted to do with her life and the answer came that she wanted a career for herself in the field of education. There she also developed a kind of reading habit and had decided to make a career and not just to do a job. Teaching came naturally to her as she had never been a home sitter even during her college time, she used to teach in school during the inter sessions when she was having breaks from her studies.

She iterated that teaching has its own fascination and there is never an end to your growth in teaching. In any other profession one might reach to an optimum level and to an ultimate position but in teaching and in research there is no saturation point and you continue to grow in one form or another in this field. Another thing she pointed out is the interaction with the young minds on a regular basis which enthralls her as a motivating factor and keeps on having the hope for a better society and a developed country.

While giving her comments as to how our society is going to cope with a more educated class of females and how will it adjust with the needs of those class, keeping in mind the mindset and attitude problems that are lurking within the society. She said that the change is happening, the very fact that females are studying, it will bring along itself that change. It's not that one has to do something to prepare the society. As females are studying, this means that society is opening up to the concept that the females have a right to education and not just the basic education but the higher education. Thus a society is preparing itself to get itself adjusted to the change which these educated class of females will bring with itself. As our society is a part of a global society and is also existing in the 21st century so in order to cope up with the compulsions and with the needs of the 21st century, that change has to come in, but at the moment we are in the transitory phase where the Pakistani society is adjusting itself with the compulsions of the 21st century. We may be slightly slow but I would not say that change has not come in as I have seen how the situation gets changed specially for our women. What we need to do is to gear up ourselves and both the government and society needs to recognize that this female workforce is equally important.

She said that today it's easier for a woman to get a job than a man so the doors are more opening up for females but at the same time, there is another side to it, though the doors are opening because of the economic globalization which has taken place but still we have our fears, should we allow our women to come out and work, would they be an effective workforce, these are the mindsets that is needed to change and I think that change is happening in a subtle manner. The society has no other choice and the society has got to accept this change. A good part is that females entering into the workforce are not just from the high strata of the society but they are also from middle and lower middle groups. That means that it is happening across the board. It may be an outcome of the economic necessity where more and more people are realizing that women need to work if we want to survive in a respectable manner because in that way they can supplement the income of the family. So that acceptance may carry within itself different reasons and we also need to understand that we should not put up conditionality and let our women work in full capacity as a human and as an effective workforce, we should not back biting them on their characters and behaviors if they are putting up more effort to be more effective and instrumental.

On the representation of women at political front and increase of their strength in national assembly, she said that so far it is not helping a common woman of a society and no benefit is trailing down to then through that representation but it has helped in creating a hope and generating hope in itself is an extremely important thing. This is a very recent phenomenon and it will take some time before started delivering results. We expect those women who are parliamentarians to work on all the issues, to be very vocal on all the issues and similarly we want women councilors them to play their due roles. In a few more years political maturity will come to them and they would not just be following the line given to them by their party but they start contributing in the debates inside Parliament on all the issues related to the society and country.

She said that today the electronic Media is playing not so vibrant role, the situation is that females have now started taken more interest in the debates that the media shows but Media needs to play a responsible role, a matured role, a fuller role. As far as women role is concerned, media is in total confusion which is also reflective of a society which is also confused between the stereotypical and modern outlook of the women. In order to empower our women, electronic media needs to play a more positive role keeping in view the compulsions which are the outcome of the social-economic liberalization policies of Pakistan, I think electronic media needs to grow up real fast and play its role more positively.

For a woman in order to be successful, she said that it is important that she neatly and nicely manage all sides of her life. Whether it is her professional life or personal life, she has to know the art of managing it. If she handles thing nicely with maturity, the support does come from the family. If females are coming out to work in a professional environment, they need to learn that they should not use futile excuses but try to contribute more fully to the development of the society and of the country. The society also learns to not to ask the females to live two lives, one that is very different in her professional environment and other which is entirely different at her own home after spending eight hours in her office but there must be the extension of the two in between so to keep that person alive in its true sense, else she would live in that confusion. I think females have to learn and handle those double standards which are there in our society for men and women who are so much different from each other in so many ways.

While discussing the major problems that our women are facing, she pointed out that firstly and fore mostly it is the society which still creates problems for a female when she tries to come out and work. There is this fear related to cultural sensitivity in our men that if they allow their women to move out in complete freedom, to be in the control of their lives, they would throw away the cultural values. It's high time we should realize that the values do keep on changing, values can be changed keeping in mind the cultural sensitivities which is there, if we unnecessarily pretend that values are not going to change, it would only be harmful for us. The another problem that our women is facing is that there aren't any day care centers at the organizations or at the institutions where they work in, then there is this transport system which is a big hindrance and these are all the hardships which our women are confronted with on a daily basis. We need to strengthen these systems and they should be gender sensitive. Our institutional system needs to understand that this is 21st century and if a male is working so is female, so the transport system needs to be restructured and more room needs to be accommodated for the women. Also the law and order situation where our woman can't walk freely after it gets dark so all these departments needs to work in tandem to facilitate our women. In short, it is the government and the people of Pakistan who collectively and very honestly accept the fact that females are now a reality as a workforce and as individuals, so stop sympathizing with them but take measures which brings that percentage out of their homes so that they can contribute towards the development and growth of the country and society respectively.

While explaining the ingredients of success, she said that it's sheer hard work, dedication, integrity and belief in Allah that He has given you the capacity to work and having a high self esteem for oneself, these all helps you to achieve success.

For her success is something where you don't have any regrets in your life. It is not in the materialism, it's not how many people stand when you entered a room but it is the self contentment, inner peace, the feeling that I have not wasted my life, the ability to deal with the inner contradictions and yet strive to work forward. I am a successful person as I am happy to be a teacher and a researcher.