Behind every strong and independent woman is her father. We often forget that a big part of empowerment and self-worth begins in childhood and is greatly influenced by our parents? decisions and the way they relate to us. There is no doubt of the influence fathers have in shaping their daughters? confidence in patriarchal societies such as that of Chitral, Pakistan. I was blessed to have a father who valued, loved, and trusted me as a beloved child, and treated me no differently than a son. This was a mode widely divergent from the norms of my culture. When most daughters were relegated to only household tasks such as cooking, crocheting, weaving sweaters, or tending to animals, my father Abdul Akbar (aka Chairman Lotkoh) decided to send his girls to the only available local school, which just so happened to be a boys-only school. He also encouraged us to pursue higher education and have ambitions and unwavering viewpoints of our own. He never shushed me or any of my siblings for speaking our minds, and both my parents taught us to always speak up for injustice. They also taught us never to hate anyone.
I thank my parents, especially my father, for raising me to be independent and strong. Even today at the ripe old age of 37 and a mother of two children, I remember how he valued my judgement when making important decisions while I was still very young. When I was only a teenager, he would often discuss with me his plans for traveling out of the country on business trips. Since my dad always treated me as an indispensable element in his life, jointly discussing dilemmas and creating solutions, he fashioned a child who became a problem solver instead of a complainer. Who else would do that other than a dedicated father who wants to raise a strong and independent daughter?
At the boys-only school, I was not taught home economic and aesthetics, which is probably why I chose a career in finance and real estate. Skills such as cleaning dishes, gardening, and cooking can be learned anytime in life, but it is essential that parents cultivate children early on to be happy, independent, strong, resilient individuals with the ability to solve their own problems. In this age of so much anxiety and depression, we need to provide our children with these vital characteristics. While cooking and household chores are crucial to maintaining our corporeal selves, these other abilities sustain our higher-level needs?our spiritual and mental well-being.
Despite my mom?s strong protests, my dad taught me and my female siblings how to use a gun for both sport and defense, when typically only sons were considered worthy to be trained in this sporty and defensive technique. He also taught me horseback riding when I was very young. My father?s trust and belief in me always made me feel powerful and gave me the self-esteem that was equal or more to any problem I would face.
Most importantly, he taught us how to value the good and ignore the bad in life. He is known for his humility and kindness and strived to instill that in his children as well. I will never forget him saying, ?Power with humility is very powerful, and without it is very harmful.?
It is primarily to my father?s credit that his children are happy and unafraid to discuss anything with their parents. This should be the model for all parents to follow. My parents? love and trust has created successful children with happy and fulfilling lives. In patriarchal societies, it is particularly noteworthy that my father has bestowed these same blessings on his female children, and I, for one, am eternally grateful. ..? Nighat Akbar Shah, 17 Jun 2018