Today I got a call from a young woman, an acquaintance whom I have never seen personally or met but have talked to her on phone or messages several times. How is that possible? Well, the girl lives near my sister in law’s place and my sister in law had asked me to arrange an internship for her in my organization. I had done so by referring her documents to a colleague while I went to Australia last year. So during her internship period, I was not here and therefore never met her. From then onwards, she occasionally calls me for some advice regarding this and that. Today she called me saying that yesterday she had an interview for internship at a renowned multinational in SITE area and it went really well. However, in the end they asked her how she got to SITE area and when she replied by changing four buses, they were a little put off. She was asked how would she manage to come and go every day. She replied it was the only mode of transport she had and that deterred them even further. From their expressions, she concluded that she was not getting that internship just because of the issue of transport.
She called me for advice because she is a very career oriented girl and has no problem reaching the SITE area through four buses but at the same time she is also scared herself as when she was returning home, she sensed two boys following her in SITE area. The organization also had implicitly stated that they would hire females with their own pick and drop or males only.
There goes another point down for female workers. Public transport is not even major but a humongous issue in Karachi. A perfectly capable female is not able to work at her will just because of non-availability of safe transport. Especially for female engineers since all the factories and industries are in industrial areas, which are dangerous.
For females in Pakistan who need to work, there is not one barrier, there are multiple. From family attitudes, discouragement from relatives, non availability of safe transport and after marriage, restrictions from in laws or husband. And you need lots of will power to remove the toxic people around you and do what you want to do with your life. So I salute to any woman who crosses all these barriers and emerges successful with a career.
I remember my first job, it was in Korangi Industrial Area. Although I was lucky enough that the organization provided a pick and drop service but I clearly remember one day when the van could not come and I took a bus to that area. My journey in the first bus from my home in Gulistan-e-Johar to Nipa was uneventful as it is a safe route. However, when I descended at Korangi Industrial Area, I felt strange. I could see no women bar a few covered in abayas from head to toe, although it was around 9:00 AM. Only some laborers were walking towards the factories from the bus stop. I chastised myself internally for not taking an off and increased my pace. A dark man in a white shalwar kameez started walking beside me and as I practically ran and neared the gate of the factory I worked for, I heard him saying ke,
“Tera baap kuch nahi kehta jo esay kapray phen kar bahir nikalti hay.”
“Doesn’t your father say anything when you wear such clothes and go out?”
I was wearing a long shirt and trousers and even had put a dupatta over my head considering the environment. The incident left me scared and shaking for hours.
My second job did not provide transport and my parents were totally against going in buses so I went in the bus for the first few days and after a lot of searching and getting help from the women in the organization, I managed to find a van which would pick and drop me right on time.
By my third job, I had earned enough to buy a car myself and afford a driver.
So I would advise all young girls not to leave a position just because of transport issue. We know its crappy in Karachi but once you enter an organization, you can coordinate with the women colleagues working in the company. Perhaps you could even find someone who lives in your area and can pick and drop you.
Also do not put barriers like these put you down. Life never hands you anything on a plate and if you really want to do something, just set your mind to it and try your best, Allah will definitely show you the way.
This blog post has also been featured on Dairay.com, a one-stop shop for determined Pakistani women from around the world to come together, share their experiences and learn from one another. You can read this piece here.
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