“No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.”
— Quaid-i-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah
Pakistan's Independence Day is a reminder that a nation’s aims cannot be achieved without the participation of its women. It is a reminder that freedom requires sacrifices not only by men but also by women. It would not be wrong to state that the Pakistan Movement was accelerated by the energetic participation of Muslim women living in the Indian Subcontinent in every arena of the freedom struggle in spite of numerous hurdles and social restraints. They stepped outside of their households and fought for a separate homeland. As the country observes its 74 years of independence, let us recall the struggle and sacrifices made by the women of the Subcontinent without whom the realization of the dream of a separate homeland would not have been possible.
Fatima Ali Jinnah “Mader-e-Millat”
Ms. Jinnah was the youngest sister and ward of Muhammed Ali Jinnah. She was born on July 31, 1893, in Kathiawar, Gujarat. Mr. Jinnah went against the extended family and the prevalent societal norms of the time, and pushed his youngest sister to attend Bandhara Convent School and then St. Patrick School, in Bombay, where she completed her early education. She then attended Dr. R. Ahmad Dental College, in Calcutta. Mr. Jinnah believed that women have an absolute right to choose a career of their own choice and so it was because of his efforts that allowed Ms. Jinnah to open a dental clinic in Bombay, in 1923. Ms. Jinnah also showed great interest in politics and played an active part in women's rights. She and her brother demonstrated how life should be for a woman even before Pakistan was born. M. Reza Pirbhai writes, “She was English educated, a professional dentist and an unveiled social worker even before the word Pakistan was coined in the 1930s.” Ms. Jinnah’s extraordinary efforts awarded her the title of Mader-e-Millat because she helped and supported, and firmly stood alongside Quaid-i-Azam in his quest for Pakistan.
Amjadi Bano Begum
The brave and courageous Begum Amjadi was one of the first female Muslim politicians of British India. Begum Amjadi started her political career inspired by her husband Muhammad Ali Jauhar and her mother-in-law, Bi Amma, at a time when women were restricted to their homes and were confined to only the role of a homemaker. She stood by her husband in all his political conferences and accompanied her husband at the First Round Table Conference in London. After her husband passed away, she spent the remaining sixteen years of her life alone but continued to play an active role in politics. She endured all hardships, and difficulties with a smile on her face and always remained passionate about a homeland free from British rule. She motivated women to participate in Pakistan MovementDuring her speech of the Women’s Central Subcommittee, on March 23 , 1940, at Habibiya Hall, Islamia College Lahore, Begum Amjadi became the first to call the draft ‘Pakistan Resolution’. Mahatma Gandhi wrote an article about Begum Amjadi in Young India, titled ‘A Brave Woman’. He admired her strong voice and said that she was truly a courageous wife of a courageous man. She established an Urdu magazine by the name of Roznama Hind with the aim of spreading the message of a free homeland for Muslims. Begum Amjadi was a woman of great stature; her strong will and determination makes her a role model for all Pakistani women.
Begum Ra'ana Liaqat Ali Khan
Begum Ra’ana was born in Kumaon, a small village in the mountains. “She was a well-educated woman, with a mind of her own, far ahead of her times, as many of her speeches and public statements demonstrated,” says Namita Gokhale, an Indian writer. She is among the prominent women who played a vital role in Pakistan Movement. She worked shoulder to shoulder with her husband and served the country in various important offices after Independence. She helped the refugees who migrated from India during partition and also founded the All Pakistan Women's Association, in 1949, two years after the creation of Pakistan. She observed that there were only a few nurses serving in the coastal areas and requested the military to train women, which resulted in the para-military forces for women — Pakistan Women’s National Guard (PWNG) and Pakistan Women’s Naval Reserve — because she believed that Pakistani women should play an equal role in defence of their country. She took the initiative to encourage women in taking up responsibilities in administering first aid, organizing food distribution, dealing with health problems, epidemics and clothing, and above all, in providing moral and emotional support. Begum Ra’ana pushed to uplift the Pakistani women in every field and was awarded the United Nation’s Human Rights Award in 1978, in recognition of her lifelong struggle for human rights. Namita explains in her book: “The Begum is not fearful of taking a plunge into the unknown and exotic and that is the driving force behind her success! She is not afraid of taking risks — a bold and honest woman who supports the truth and truth alone!” Begum Ra’ana continued to work for Pakistan even after her husband was assassinated in 1951, and became the first Muslim female delegate to the United Nations in 1952.
Lady Abdullah Haroon
Lady Abdullah Haroon was born in 1886, in Iran. Her parents migrated to India and settled in Karachi where she got married to Sir Abdullah Haroon in 1914. She was passionate about women’s education and opened a school at her home. She established Anjuman-i-Khawateen with the aim of improving the socio-economic condition of women of Sindh. She started her political career in 1919, and worked as a devoted supporter of the Khilafat Movement in Sindh. She was elected as the President of All India Women Muslim League in 1943. Lady Haroon’s greatest accomplishment was that she was able to convince Muslim women to stand under the banner of the Muslim League.
Begum Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah
Sughra Begum was born in a feudal family of Shikarpur. Though brought up in strict purdah, Begum Sughra was given a liberal education, especially in religion, Urdu, Sindhi and elementary English. She got married to a prominent political leader of Sindh, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah. She was an active member of All India Muslim League and started her political career in 1938 as a worker of the All India Muslim League and became a member of the Women’s Central Subcommittee. She was elected as the President of the Women’s Reception Committee in 1943 for the annual session of the Muslim League in Karachi. Begum Sughra was a courageous and optimistic woman whose name will always be remembered in our history. She played an active role in politics during Pakistan Movement. She led the march towards the Civil Secretariat Lahore in 1946, during which the Muslim League flag was hoisted on that building. She was a faithful companion of Ms. Fatima Jinnah. She established Women’s Refugee Relief Committee to help the refugees that were coming in from India at the time of partition.
Fatima Sughra was a young girl who is known for having raised the Muslim League flag on the Civil Secretariat Lahore. In February 1946, she took part in a march towards the Civil Secretariat Lahore and raised the flag of Muslim League on the building after taking down the British Union Jack, at only 14-years-old. In an interview with The Guardian in 2007, Fatima Sughra talked about the particular incident and said: “When I took down the British flag and replaced it with our Muslim League one, I don’t think I really knew what I was doing. It wasn’t planned. I was rebellious at that age, 14, and it seemed like a good idea. I was not prepared for it to become such a big symbol of independence. They even gave me a Gold Medal for services to Pakistan. I was the first ever to receive one.” This act encouraged many Muslim women who were reluctant to come out of their houses to participate in the Movement for Pakistan.
Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz
In the long list of Indian Muslim women who played a prominent role in Pakistan Movement, the name Begum Shahnawaz is among the top ones. She was one of the two female representatives at the First Round Table Conference, one of the three female representatives at the Second and the only woman at the Third Round Table Conference. Begum Shahnawaz was born in 1896, and completed her schooling at Queen Mary School, Lahore. She dedicated her life for the cause of Muslims of the Subcontinent. She was an energetic member of the All India Muslim Women Conference and was the first female to be appointed as Provincial Executive Vice President and was a member of the Indian Red Cross Society. Her efforts met with success when the Muslim League passed a resolution in June 1932, declaring that women should be treated on a basis of equality with men. She also urged that Muslim women should be included in the same category as their men.
Begum Viqar-un-Nisa Noon
Another prominent woman who played an active role in Pakistan Movement was Begum Viqar-un-Nisa Noon, wife of Sir Firoze Khan, a leading politician. Begum Viqar-un-Nisa, born in Austria, was brought up and educated in England. During the general elections of 1945, she followed the plans laid out by Quaid-i-Azam and systematized a campaign for the Muslim League. She was one of the leading female leaders to organize marches and protests against the British-backed Khizr Ministry during the Civil Disobedience Movement in Punjab and was arrested on three occasions at the time. Begum Viqar-un-Nisa was also a member of the Goodwill Delegation sent by Quaid-i-Azam to America. She was elected as a member of the Working Committee of Pakistan Muslim League in 1948, and led numerous delegations to Canada, the United States and China, etc. Begum Viqar-un-Nisa played a vital role in implementing the vision of Quaid-i-Azam for the Muslims in Punjab after independence. She worked closely with the Indian Red Cross for years, especially during the partition when millions of impoverished refugees poured into Punjab.
Begum Salma Tassaduq Hussain
Begum Tassaduq Hussain was born in an educated and scholarly family in 1908. Begum Tassaduq was not only a writer and poet who understood the value of art and literature but was also an entrepreneur. Begum Salma graduated from University of Punjab and played an active role in the Punjab Provincial Women's Subcommittee. She played a leading role in the Bengal Relief Fund Committee and was elected on one of the Muslim women's seats in 1946, during the Punjab Provincial Legislature elections. Her inclusion in politics marked a new phase in the struggle of a homeland for Muslim women. She, along with other prominent female leaders, emerged as a major player in the events that shaped the future of Pakistan. She worked day and night during the Bihar riots and helped countless refugees living in open sheds by providing them lodging at her residence. She was among those representing Muslim League at the Conference of Kisan Sabha held at Jalundhar. The second session of the Conference was chaired by Begum Tassaduq. When asked, “Why do you want Pakistan?” she explained that the Muslim League was not against any race or religion, the sole purpose for a new and independent homeland for Muslims was so that they could practice their religion freely. She gave examples of prejudice against Muslims and stated that Muslims wanted a country where they could practice their own customs and traditions. She was one of the most active members of the Women's League.
Muslim women were politically conscious, well aware, educated and active at that time compared to females of other communities. This was also evident from the activism of Muslim women during the Pakistan Movement. The above-mentioned are some of the women who serve as examples for the Pakistani women of today and teach them how to work for a purpose that is greater than all of us — building and strengthening Pakistan. Quaid-i-Azam made a deliberate effort to involve Muslim women in Pakistan Movement because he believed that women’s participation in politics would prove to be beneficial for the overall wellbeing of the whole community. Quaid-i-Azam stressed that women need to play their due role in the spread of Islamic ideals and actively participate in the political arena. He motivated women to attain education so that they could walk shoulder to shoulder with men in every walk of life. HH
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