Despite living in a patriarchal society, there are many fathers in Pakistan who struggle to improve their children’s livelihoods. They take stands against taboos and face stiff resistance from within and outside family circles but their hardships almost always go unnoticed.
Every year on June 16, Father’s Day is observed to honour these men and pay tribute to their courage in addition to promoting responsible fatherhood.
Ghulam Sarwar, 51, a father of three — two daughters and one son — belongs to a small village near Gujrat. He left school after completing seventh grade and married a deaf and dumb woman who passed away in 2009.
“Initially, I was reluctant to send my daughters to school, but decided that they needed education to be able to stand on their own feet. The rewards are there for all to see — both of them graduated and are now working at reputable organisations,” said Sarwar.
He recalled the period when his wife was taken ill and he had to take on more responsibility at home.
“I did laundry, dishwashing, cooking, cleaning, babysitting and took care of my wife who was hospitalised at the time,” he said.
He said that his brothers and close relatives had left him because of his decision to send his daughters to university. “I did not lose my determination despite facing opposition from my family after my wife’s death,” he said.
Similarly, for the family of 49-year-old Akbar Ali, from Mardan, sending girls to school is considered a sin. Ali is a daily wage labourer who lives in Islamabad and has three daughters and one son.
“I was living a comfortable life at my village. None of my family members had ever been to school and the majority of children had become victims of early child marriages,” he said.
Ali said it was very painful to see the village girls’ future being destroyed by marrying them off at an age where they didn’t even know what marriage meant.
This is what prompted him to migrate to Islamabad in the hope of making a fresh start for his family.
All of his children are now in school and Ali remains hopeful that they will one day become model citizens.
“Though I belong to a conservative society, I believe that no country can progress without educating its female population,” he said.
Meanwhile, in an effort to promote responsible fatherhood, Rutgers World Population Foundation (Rutgers WPF) on the eve of Father’s Day officially launched a yearlong campaign titled “Greening Pakistan-Promoting Responsible Fatherhood” across the country.
“Fathers play an essential role in strengthening family ties and nurturing their children,” said Rutgers WPF Country Representative for Pakistan Qadeer Baig.