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The Book of the Week is “I Should Have Honor, A Memoir of Hope and Pride in Pakistan” by Khalida Brohi, published in 2018.
Pakistan’s Muslim men have a tradition of arranging marriages for their prepubertal daughters to clans they deem worthy. None of the female family members have any say in the matter.
It was through a stroke of great good luck that Grohi’s father (born in the mid-1970’s) received an education, instead of facing a fate of ignorance, poverty, goat-herding and hard manual farmwork as his siblings did. Too, the author won the “world parents lottery” in many ways. Her father refused to agree to marry her off before she was born (!) Her parents provided the same resources and opportunities to her and her sisters, as to her brothers. She attended school and was allowed to do almost anything her male counterparts were allowed to do.
The author was born in the late-1980’s, although when she began to travel internationally, her later-created identity documents were inaccurate by about a year. She became fluent in English and Brahui. During her childhood, her financially struggling, ever-growing family moved around a lot. At first, they lived in multi-generational households in rural villages and later on, upgraded to the cities of Hyderabad and Karachi.
Even so, Grohi’s mother and females in her large extended family were still enslaved in a life of domestic chores, which included feeding their farm animals and making cow-dung patties to be burned in cooking-fires. In other words, in most Pakistani Muslim households, the females were kept barefoot and pregnant.
On an even more extreme note, in the single-digit 2000’s (!) the males were allowed to physically abuse their wives (for any reason they rationalized, or none at all), and allowed to kill a female who brought shame to the family through misbehavior such as eloping. The latter situation occurs about a thousand times a year in Pakistan. Gossiping is the number one activity in rural-village communities, so everyone was under pressure to conform to the elder males’ rules.
The author realized that religion, caste or tradition had nothing to do with how such a punishment was justified. The elders were simply alpha males with hubris syndrome who were insecure, or enraged at the disobedience of their daughters. Grohi tried to change that. She founded a non-profit organization that empowered females by spurring discussions in Pakistan and internationally regarding gender equality. After much trauma, she was forced to switch to a less confrontational approach– by apologizing to the males, and convincing them:
- that physically harming females was dishonorable;
- that allowing female family members to work outside the home would financially help the household (and for that, they might need education), and
- that the points above were their idea.
Read the book to learn an additional slew of information on the author’s family, and her trials, tribulations and triumphs in trying to change Pakistan’s entrenched gender-segregated, cruel culture.