The exercise of parachute jumps by a group of intrepid female paratroopers, the first in the Pakistan armed forces, near Tarbela on Sunday makes for a huge leap forward for womenfolk. If ever there were any cultural stereotypes that they were less capable than men in such daring ventures, this remarkable display of nerves and athleticism should bust it.
All of the crew members have earned themselves a badge of courage.
For the perpetually and jealously pessimistic among us thinking that this was a mere publicity stunt or something of the sort, a military spokesperson did well to confirm that these parachutists would not be restricted to the Army Medical Corps but are trained to participate in active combat.
The bottom line is that unless women are treated as equal to men in all walks of life, Pakistan will never prosper. These women need to prove nothing to anyone, in fact society needs to restrain itself to not think of them as restricted to selected proscribed roles. Such rigorous training courses have unfortunately been the select club of the males, where traditionally no one would have thought one day they would be eclipsed. Recently some females have been joining the air force as fighter pilots as well. These events also bear out the inbuilt strength of women, long underrated because of an anachronistic value system bent upon gender specific roles. What they need is the right kind of facilities and enlargement, to walk off with the honours as they did on Sunday. The parachute jump on Sunday is also going to have a lot of symbolic import; it would help blow away the cobwebs of obscurantism. This may have shocked some of our macho men steeped in their ‘exalted’ sense of masculinity or because in the society they live in has yet to reconcile to such things.
At the end of the day, a lot also depends on the state of education and to what extent the state is willing to play its role. The road ahead is open for womenfolk, but where there are barriers it is the courage of these paratroopers and other women blazing a trail, that shows the way forward.