Weeping with the women of Pakistan
I would like to share the story of a woman. Let us call her Parveen (Parveen means evening star.). She brought two girls, ages 7 and 12, to our school. She also had a little girl in her lap and was expecting her fourth child. She wanted the two older girls to be admitted to our school, but she said she could not pay even 50 rupees (about 50 cents). I asked about her husband’s occupation. She said he was a driver, but he fell in love with another woman and lives with her. I asked, “Can’t you go back to your parents?” She said her father and mother are old and dependent on her brother and sister. The inlaws say that they cannot afford to keep Parveen and her children in their home. She said, “I live in a one-room house which my husband has rented for me, and he gives us some food items every month.”
I asked how long ago her husband had left her for another woman and she said two years. I looked at her and very reluctantly asked, “Why are you expecting again?” She said, “When he comes to my house, if I don’t listen to him, he will stop helping me financially. I have no other place to go, and I will be on the road, and my children will starve to death.”
I took a deep breath and lost all my words. After the woman left, I sat stunned and felt my emptiness and inability to help her. I felt tears in my eyes not because I had witnessed such misery; the realization of my helplessness in this very strong patriarchal society where women are a commodity hit me hard. The questions stayed with me for many days: “How will this woman be able to break the vicious cycle of inhumane treatment? Will her daughters’ lives end up like hers? What can I do for her?” I have admitted her daughters to the school. I have listened to her pain and distress. I have held her with sympathy. Maybe that is what God wants me to do in this moment.
I have studied the history of slavery. I have often thought that the soul of Harriet Beecher Stowe possessed me. The horrifying tales of voiceless women compelled me to write my Ph.D. thesis on their lives.
Women in my society are voiceless, many with horrifying stories, especially those from the lower strata of society. Where is my hope? I will see it only when most of my people are better educated and will recognize the dignity of all human beings, made in God’s image.
To read all the articles in the Winter 2022-2023 issue of Loretto Magazine, click here.
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