Dr. Zarqa Taimur
One must wonder at the unprecedented women’s membership of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI). Of course, it goes without saying that they are there because they have faith in Imran Khan’s vision, in his sincerity and commitment towards the cause of a ‘Naya’ Pakistan, and contributions in the fields of healthcare, education and the social uplift of the country.
But look a little deeper at the demographics, the educational and economic background of these women (both young and old), and an interesting pattern emerges. It turns out that urban women outnumber the men, by a greater number than any other political party has ever seen. Most are highly educated and high achievers in their own spheres of activity.
Interestingly, most have no background in politics and joined the party with rich life experiences but little knowledge of dealing with the games played in political set ups. (Of course, a background in dealing with in laws and joint family systems gives them an edge over the men here!)
These women have joined the PTI for many reasons, the foremost being their desire to make a positive contribution to Pakistan’s future. You can recognize a PTI woman by her fervour, motivation and dedication. She is self funded and goes to PTI’s jalsas, rallies and dharnas, leaving her family behind.
The PTI woman’s unmatchable spirit can be gauged by the fact that many professional businesswomen, doctors and teachers give their valuable time and expertise free of cost towards achieving the party’s mission and objectives. Many will recall that it was the PTI’s women workers who organized the first large scale sit in in Lahore on May 13, 2013, to protest widespread rigging and other malpractices in the May 11 elections.
The gruelling heat mattered little, and they drew nationwide attention during the two week dharna that inspired a large number of male supporters to join in. It is that spark which now, transformed into the flames of change, leads the way towards free, fair and transparent elections for the future.
That these women have not been part of a rotten, entrenched political system, gives them fresh and unbiased perspective of the corridors of power. The value system of most active women members is more purist than that of the men because they are significantly more detached from power games. The mothers amongst them are naturally more compassionate, and more concerned about an accountable society.
Studies made by Alice Eagly in an article titled ‘The Leadership Styles of Women and Men’ in the Journal of Social Issues, show that the difference between the leadership styles of men and women is small, but significant. It further states, ‘Women exceeded men on three scales: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, and individualized consideration.’
These findings suggest that females, more so than males, manifest attributes that motivate their followers to feel respect and pride because of their association with them, show optimism and excitement about future goals, and attempt to develop and mentor followers and attend to their individual needs. The conclusion thus is, that females give their followers better rewards for good performance.
According to the American Psychological Association, a woman’s leadership style takes on the roles of mentoring and coaching, while a man’s style is centered around command and control. As a result, women are more likely to be transformational leaders, helping colleagues develop skills and talents, motivating them, and coaching them to be more creative.
In Pakistani society, women usually follow the traditional roles of allowing men to take decisions, often avoiding discussions on politics altogether. However, the breakdown of basic amenities like energy, the decline of educational standards and the huge nosedive of the moral fabric of society has forced this unseen 52 percent to start becoming visible and vocal.
The Pakistani woman’s endeavors are directed towards real, meaningful change in society. She strives for a Pakistan where her children can progress and prosper on pure merit; a country where citizens have access to free justice and enjoy equal rights irrespective of gender, color or religion. She wants a Pakistan where the corrupt, irrespective of their class and might, are punished and terrorism dealt with severely.
She yearns for a Pakistan, where women can have the security to travel to and from work, and where cheap modes of transportation for women are available. She wants crèches at work so she can keep her children with her. She dreams of hospitals where basic healthcare is affordable. She wants schools and colleges. She wants to be empowered, independent and self-reliant; not dependent on handouts like free incomes, or politically inspired schemes like youth loan programs. She demands a government that shuns extravagance that promotes simple living and delivers fair policies.
And so, there is a question to be asked: Would Pakistan benefit from more women given a greater role in decision making? Recent research indicates that the relationship between gender and corruption depends on context. Professor Justin Esarey at Rice University comments “In a society where corruption is stigmatized, as in most democracies, women are less likely to engage in it compared to men. However, if corrupt behaviors are an accepted part of governance supported by political institutions there will be no corruption gender gap.”
There is much to think about. Will women, by their ever growing numbers, increase compassion, accountability and justice in governance, or will they come to represent more of the same? So far, by the impassioned initiatives of women from at least one political party, there is still hope for genuine change.
The writer is a political activist and President of the PTI Women’s Wing, Lahore.