Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan

Political Awareness among Women in the Punjab: A Case Study of Their Role in the Pakistan Movement

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan

Political Awareness among Women in the Punjab: A Case Study of Their Role in the Pakistan Movement

Article excerpt

No movement can be successful without the participation of women as they provide real spirit to a movement. Similarly, despite heavy odds, women backed up the Pakistan Movement. Indeed, the pace of the Pakistan Movement remained slow, even after the historic Lahore Resolution in 1940, and gained momentum only when women came forward to march along with men. This paper attempts to highlight the role and services of women of the Punjab in the struggle for the creation of Pakistan. It discusses how some women of the Punjab tried to awaken their sisters at an individual level as well as at the collective level. The paper also examines how politically motivated Punjabi women came forward to create political organizations and made efforts to activate the other women. Finally, this paper assesses effects of this political activism on housewives who stepped out of their homes to materialize the idea of Pakistan. The paper studies these various roles of women's political activism in three phases. Phase one deals with individual women's efforts for creating consciousness among women of the Punjab. Phase two assesses women's efforts to form Women's Organizations at the provincial level during the decade of the 1930s. Phase three studies the growth of women's activism during the final stages of the Pakistan Movement as women swung into full force demanding Pakistan.

An important aspect of this paper is its source material which has not been used hitherto for such a study. The first important source material comes from interviews of participants in the Pakistan Movement, women and men both, conducted by this researcher. Secondly, the paper draws upon files of 'the Gold Medalists' housed at the archives of the Pakistan Movement Workers Trust, Lahore. (1) To recognize the laudable contributions of the Pakistan Movement workers, Gold Medals were conferred upon them by the Government of the Punjab. These files not only provide first-hand knowledge of the services rendered by the freedom-fighters but also provide evidence of women's presence among them. A third important source is the newspapers. Long hours spent in the archives of the daily Nawa-i-Waqt, the Punjab Public Library, Lahore; the Library of the Museum, Lahore; and the Library of the University of the Punjab, yielded rich information from pages of multiple newspapers highlighting facts regarding women's participation in the Pakistan Movement that has been overlooked by historians of that movement. (2)

Phase One: Individual Efforts of Women

During this phase prominent women of the Punjab extended great services to awaken other females of the province through the opening of educational institutions and by convincing traditional Muslim families to let their daughters seek school and college education. In the backdrop of early twentieth-century Punjab's social milieu, in which women lived under severe restrictions, this call for education was indeed a sign of significant change. Contrary to the deep-rooted cultural norms, a few families dared to arrange for the education of their daughters at home. In general, education through schools established by the British colonial government or by Christian missions was shunned. (3) Lack of education and its low acceptance by the community thus kept many talented women at a distance from public space.

The story of one young woman, Fatimah Begum (1890-1958), daughter of Maulavi Mehboob Alam, (4) is worth recalling. She was the first Punjabi woman to play a pivotal and pioneering role in educating Muslim girls of the province. In 1901, she passed her matric examination privately. Earlier she had passed Munshi Fazil (5), an Urdu language degree examination. While passing matric examination was a great feat, she took another bold step when she served as a teacher in a local school for a few months. A gifted woman, she has the honour of being the first female Muslim journalist in India. She was the editor of a magazine for women, "Sharif Bibi. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.