Your daughter’s education is as important as her marriage

Published: December 28, 2013

Parents do not educate their daughters as they want them to get married to rich bachelors. PHOTO: Umair Ali Anjum/Express

The wedding season is currently in full swing in the country. There are weddings events and functions almost every other day.  This is the time when practically every household is involved in mehndis, dholkis and mayuns (musical nights) along with nikkahs, shaadis and valimas.

I do not know whether it is the pleasant weather that inspires so many to get married at this time of the year or if it is the fact that winter holidays means that friends and family from abroad can attend weddings at this time, not to mention that local schools are also closed, making it easier for the parents.

What I do know is that anyone who has been to even one of these events would know what awe-striking extravagance these occasions depict.

The dream wedding vs the education dream

Perfection is the ultimate goal in Pakistani weddings. Everything has to be and look perfect at every single event, of which there are quite a few. Thousands of rupees are spent on each occasion on clothes, venues and invitation cards not to mention event managers, choreographers, give-aways and the likes. Often this can sum up to at least a few crore rupees.

Keeping the expenses in mind, one would think that the bride and groom would get the wedding of their dreams and often they do. But perfect weddings do not always translate into perfect marriages.

It is important to see the ‘perfect wedding’ from a different perspective.

Imagine someone who has just found out that they will not be able to get admission in a university abroad – not because their grades were unacceptable but because it is financially impossible for their family to afford the tuition and lodging.

If such individuals are made to attend numerous wedding functions in this frame of mind, their only thought as they gaze at the lavishness of it all might be,

“I could have gone for my studies abroad, spent three or four years there in happiness and been able to obtain an internationally-recognised degree. My future would be secure in less than a quarter of the amount being spent at each of these weddings. Three whole years, compared to a mere 20 days of stress-filled functions related to the preparations, the in-laws, the wants and needs of the bride and groom or the making of the dresses. So much expenditure just for uniting two people!”

The sacrifices and compromises

This entire matter becomes heart-breaking when one finds out that the bride never had the opportunity or the encouragement to study any further than O-Levels or A-Levels. Even if the girl is studying somewhere abroad, her parents usually call her back to Pakistan when a ‘rishta’ comes along because ‘good rishtas should not be ignored’.

So this young girl with hopes, dreams and ambitions flies back, gets ‘approved’ by the in-laws and an engagement ceremony takes place. After the ceremony she is told that she will not be going back to complete her studies because ‘what need is there now?’

So, all her time, money, energy and hard work come down to nothing.

What is worse is that she probably did not even fight or argue with her parents because she had accepted that this is how things are done in Pakistan.

Coming back to the perspective of the distressed students with no means of financing their education, it would probably baffle them as to why and how the friends and peers of these girls would allow this to happen.

More importantly, they do not understand why the parents are not concerned about their daughters’ education. Why are these parents more than ready to spend such exorbitant amounts on their daughters’ weddings but not let them complete their education?

The reasons for the extravagance

All of this is pretty baffling for me. However, what we need to understand is why parents act in such an absurd manner. Well, simply because everyone in Pakistan is doing the exact same thing.

It is all about the money. The status. The ego. And the competition. That is what weddings are all about in a nutshell.

I have had endless discussions on this disturbing social behaviour with my best friend and my mother and like all rational people they agree with me. My question is, if they realise and recognise the absurdity of it, why doesn’t the general populace understand it?

And I know that many people are aware of this problem in our society and that there are enough dinner table debates on it. But if everyone is aware of this issue, why is nothing being done about it?

Sadly, in most of our cities, where every single person aims to outdo the other – be it friend or foe; where money is the only concern for most of us. Money, money, money – that is the entire game.

What I do not understand is that it is just a piece of paper so why make it matter so much?

Why choose money over your brother or sister, your mother or father, your wife or husband, your friend or relative?

If you probe deeper, it all comes down to one trait prevalent in our society – judging.

The entire foundation of our society is built upon one person judging the other. And sadly, we form our opinions and judgements based on outwardly appearances and attitudes, rather than concrete characteristics such as intelligence, morality, humanity and humility.

Marriage is more than the dream wedding

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against marriage and I do think that it is important. And I know that parents get worried about their daughters remaining single for the rest of their lives if they focus on their education and career for too long.

However, I feel sad that as a society we have failed to strike a balance between education and marriage. Most brides are treated like a princess during the entire month of the wedding and once married, they are expected to spend the rest of their life sitting at home, going shopping and socialising because they never completed their education and hence, cannot pursue a career or do something to realise their true potential.

Eventually these girls get fed up with the direction that their life has taken only because their parents made them dependent, instead of allowing them to have the opportunity to become self-reliant.

I am disturbed by these ideals and values which are held important across Pakistan – the ideals of money over education, beauty over brains, clothes over principles. It is just perplexing and baseless.

And this is why weddings have become such dramatic, extravagant affairs. We are more concerned with what people will think of us if we do not spend enough on the venues, food, dresses, choreographers and give-aways, than what they will think if we lack the basic values of courtesy, etiquette and good manners.

A wedding is about bringing two people together; it is about uniting two families. So why can it not be just that? Why have we made it into something which a family can use to display their immense wealth? Not only does this cause unnecessary stress to those involved, it takes away the essence of what a wedding should be.

Of course, weddings should be fun and enjoyable but that enjoyment should not come at the risk of stress, debt and anxiety. It should exist automatically, spontaneously, as an extension to the happiness of the event itself.

Myra Mitha

Myra Mitha

Currently residing in Malaysia as a student of Communications and English, she is overwhelmed by the qualms and woes of being a Pakistani. She entertains her passion for reading and writing and her yearly trips to Karachi more often than she should. She blogs at myramitha.wordpress.com and tweets @MyraM93 (twitter.com/MyraM93)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ovais

    To be honest i think women tend to dream of their amazing weddings and will go on all expenses to make it a reality. Pressurizing their parents. on the other hand very few will pressurize their parents for education. But education is highly important for anyone regardless of genderRecommend

  • Nobody

    Important and often ignored topic to bring light upon.
    Pakistanis can be a judgmental lot. People are too worried about ‘log kya kahengey?’ as opposed to doing what’s best for themselves and for their children. Often girls get the short end of the stick while parents are obsessing over what people will say about her. Sooner people stop caring, sooner things will start to change.
    The amount of money people will spend on a wedding and dowry is something I find appalling when the family simply cannot afford it, but worry about ‘tanney’ from people who don’t even matter.
    As the saying goes, educate a man and you educate a man, educate a woman and you educate an entire nation.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Tj

    So true i am a higly educated girl beCause my parents always encouraged me to get a good degree and become something in life… But now since i have goten married to my cousin in pakistan.. They expect that i leave my job abroad and come and settle here with my husband as what is the need of this job and why do u even need money.. I am shocked as people expect me to dress up and attend social gatherings but is this the purpose of my life.. I cant imagine how just dressing up, buying clothes and gossiping is what everyone wants me to do and not have a career of my own or growth.. But just making a home it seems.. Recommend

  • Xman

    You’re too young to understand the psychology, and the socio – economic pressures that drive this behaviour. Let me attempt to elaborate. One point of view could be, that since Pakistan is mostly a lawless country where might is right, and social dependence can mean the difference between life and death (think honour killings) hence women are, and will continue to be victimized in one form or the other. Getting married to the right person means financial security for the girl, and in many cases, rest of her family, through linkages and the right connections. But since prosperity is a rare commodity in Pakistan, who ever manages to latch onto it tries to make sure somebody else doesn’t steal it from them. ( This is where law in civilized society does the work for you) By displaying immense “wealth” at weddings both families are “marking their territory” showing strength through money, and social connections.Just like any creature (spider, cobra etc.) under threat tries to appear bigger to scare off any potential predator. Essentially most of Pakistani society works primarily at lower order brain functions mainly using the reptilian part of their brains (The R-Complex) hence most of the behaviours are not too difficult to explain.Recommend

  • Queen

    Kudos to the writer for writing this blog. There are several cases in our society where girls are forced to give up their education in order to get married. I consider myself lucky to have parents who understood my academic dreams and allowed me to pursue my education.Recommend

  • Mehwesh Ahsan

    Brilliant article and a pressing issue which definitely needs to be addressed… i think the ever growing competition in Pakistanis is the main issue. I used to feel that Pakistanis are very competitive when it comes careers, jobs and promotions but lately this very competition has seeped into every walk of our lives. starting from what kinder garden your child attended to how much was the wedding Jorra…. Sadly people spend less to satisfy themselves and more to satisfy others… :( ..I hope they soon reset their priorities…. keep writing Myra!Recommend

  • Parvez

    A subject that has been much debated but you have made quite a few valid points.
    On the issue of why the extravagance ? …the words of Bill Clinton came to mind as a model answer – ‘ Because we can ‘.
    Another aspect is that the girl herself has a major role to play, if she puts her foot down and insists that I first want an education etc, etc, I am sure that in the strata of society you are talking about, she will at least be heard.Recommend

  • Amrita Yasin

    ET is a blog for the elite -studying abroad, extravagant weddings – I don’t even know whom are you addressing in this piece. Only the upper class celebrates the kind of weddings you describe….middle and lower do have competition amongst themselves but they just don’t have that kind of margin or even standards.

    “What is worse is that she probably did not even fight or argue with her parents because she had accepted that this is how things are done in Pakistan.” This is just an excuse. Not all are born equal and we have to fight for what we think is important….if someone didn’t have education/career as a priority and are happy shopping and socializing their lives away, kindly don’t present a defence for their non-existent case.Recommend

  • Sherin Naqui

    Zabardast! and a great depiction of the sad reality we , Asians are faced with today..wedding over education.. the endless debateRecommend

  • True Pakistani

    Agreed..! Marriage Functions in our society have become more of a status symbol than announcement of the union of two families with bliss and happiness. Importance of education can’t be undermined but it has become the mindset of most families that good match can guarantee a promising life ahead than a degree. Its all about thinking pattern. Soap operas prevalent on our media are the tools through which general public can be educated but sadly, they’re doing just the converse showing that wealth, status in society are the tools for social acceptance and happiness. Through our media if used with responsibility can reshape our society by instilling in people that through education and good behavior with people around us we can form a society which propagate the core values which our religion preaches i.e Love, Harmony, Empathy, Care, Sharing and above all Unity.Recommend

  • Zubair Javed

    Well Said Myra. It’s Unfortunate but True. More than what you have mentioned i believe we have forgot our religion and what is acceptable in the Eyes of Allah, As a nation we Pakistanis we are lacking God Consciousness.Recommend

  • Bystander

    This extravagance total mars the essence of weddings. Parents need be rational enough to put themselves in their daughters’ shoes and think how cruel it’s on their part to call quits to education. Through observation I have realized that a good degree in hand can be something to find solace in during unforeseen circumstances where earning bread for survival becomes a necessity, not choice.
    Good article.Recommend

  • MyraM93

    Thank you! I was going to include how such extravagance is even more so highly inappropriate on a religious basis as well, but i had to go by the word limit of submissions.Recommend

  • MyraM93

    Thank you so much! And i totally agree with what you’re saying.Recommend

  • Dilawer Ali

    Poor Myra is too young and seems to get worked up upon the reality of life in Pakistan! Dont worry bayta, you will accept it slowly :PRecommend

  • True Pakistani

    I think the individual who is being married can take the initiative to stand against the customs and socially accepted norms of our society and thus break the status quo. If the bride or groom take up the courage that its my wedding and i’ll celebrate the function with utmost simplicity as being celebrated by our Beloved Prophet (P.B.U.H) and thus can become he flag bearer of change in our society. In culture of ours where making both ends meet has become a challenging task, utmost extravagance on part of our people for people sake is extremely beyond comprehension. So, to me if and only if Bride and Groom take the decision to tie the knot with simplicity without any pomp and show with their parents consent, only then we can see a ray of hope or any silver lining. He/she can persuade his/her parents with tender and convincing arguments about why its important to break the status quo. YOUTH..! Stand up and change with your initiative than looking for others to bring the change for you.Recommend

  • Uzzie

    Make sure you don’t make that mistake regardless whateverRecommend

  • neha

    amazin blog and its so true ..I would appreciate the courage you showed to write all this..Educated girls turn out to be better mothers aswell.education is a must and should not be compromised as that is something which would act as your shield In any point in life and would make you feel that you can do it :)Recommend

  • http://ptetech.blogspot.com/ Mahfooz Ahmad

    well, everyone has its turn… i find you very close to dealing with it too may be that made you to write about :P but anyways life is messy its not only in Pakistan, this has become more of curse in India as well. I think they are suffering more than us with this.Recommend

  • suraiyakasimhasham

    you are right Myra and now that you have realized it, you should lead by example and have your wedding in a simple yet enjoyable manner. I think the Pakistani Drama artist Sanam Baloch did just that!Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    My personal feeling around this issue is that marriage should actually be discouraged until at least the age 27 or 28. We need to educate and train our current people, so they can work and build our tumbling economy than give birth to more kids.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    So true. I hate the “Log kya kahengey” attitude. To hell with what other people think.Recommend

  • Gp65

    You raised a topic that was important to discuss. The girls too have a role to play. If they ask their parents to pay for a great education instead of a fancy wedding at least some parents will agree.Recommend

  • Zia Zuberi

    Well Written article by @myraM93 and a pressing issue which definitely needs to be addressed… i think the ever growing competition in Pakistanis is the main issue.

    To be honest i think women tend to dream of their amazing weddings and will go on all expenses to make it a reality. Pressurizing their parents. on the other hand very few will pressurize their parents for education. But education is highly important for anyone regardless of genderRecommend

  • rashid behlim

    Agha Khan once said that if you have a son and a daughter and
    only afford to give education to one opt
    for the girl. As their getting educated will produce educated offspring’s and mostly
    being housewives could influence the society in a positive manner and could
    dispense education to the society at large.Recommend

  • MrRollsRoyce

    As a father to a newborn daughter and a husband to her mother, I will say that I believe a woman’s education is MORE important than her marriage.

    I believe women are as much entitled to their dreams and achieving something in life as men. An education allows them this opportunity. Marriage and kids happen in any case. Dreams and achievements however rarely come true by accident.

    I wish all young men and women find the life partners of their dreams, but also, that they get to fulfill their passions in life and make a difference in the world!Recommend

  • MyraM93

    Just because i’m writing about it doesn’t mean i haven’t accepted it, hon!Recommend

  • MyraM93

    Perfectly said, although if girls are begging pressurised to get married from the age of 18/19, i really doubt that age can in any way, ever be stretched all the way to ten years later. However, one can always hope and pray for the bestRecommend

  • MyraM93

    Absolutely loving this comment!Recommend

  • MyraM93

    Your daughter is one of the lucky few girls out there, then.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    If someone really wants to be married at that age, I think fine. But can they lay off creating kids? We already have an over-population problem in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Minahil

    so true and agreed. I myself am 21 right now, and because my mom is the youngest one in her family and all her sisters have got their kids married, my parents think am getting too old to be married. If it was in their hands they would have married me straight tomorrow. Its not that am a burden on them or i dont want to get married but i want to be educated first. Luckily i am fortunate to be in a well reputed university and I am studying. But the thing is i am not enough appreciated or my other siblings are not that motivated to be educated. As the vision of my family is that, a girl whether highly educated or not,she should be responsible and should care for herself and her looks as that is what people look at, as that is what matters as they believe after marriage all this high education is of no use and at the end of the day she just have to look after her husband, her kids and his house.Recommend

  • Muhbat Ali Shah

    well elaborated anthropological articleRecommend

  • javed

    It seems the writer of this article is a vengeful, bitter person who has been rejected by others due to her lack of attractiveness in more ways than one. Hence she feels this is her only outlet to address her grievances. I have news for you dear, no one cares what you think. People like me will still marry the homily beautiful bride over your self-righteous, presumptive self. Now might not be such a bad time to learn how to be a more obedient and humble partner. ET of course won’t post this as this is counter to their radical liberal agenda they have in mind or the country. They fail to realize that the masses of the nation will continue to be conservative and most will not read this ridiculous excuse of a blog.Recommend

  • Dante

    I agree 100%. Daughter’s education is critically important. But Meera’s picture simulating marriage is not.Recommend

  • Mehwesh Ahsan

    Well probably lower and middle class also do this wrong practice within their own capacity and limits – the budgets are lower, probably leave one or two zeros from what the writer quoted but the problem is still there… and it is it still wrong. writer might not be in Pakistan but she seems to know more about Pakistani culture … or perhaps u dont see it because it did not happen to u …Recommend

  • Nobody

    The day you learn to be an obedient and humble partner, a person willing to sacrifice what YOUR life plans are and a person who will put everyone in your life before yourself is the day you have a right to demand the same from anyone else. NOBODY should “learn” to be an obedient and humble partner [read: doormat]. EVERYBODY has the right to fulfill their own needs and strive for what they want with their own life. Only whiny and insecure men are so terrified of a woman with the ability to do with her life what she pleases.
    Luckily, I know many secure men who LIKE a woman who will put up a fight and has a purpose in her life other than to serve a useless, insecure master with nothing to offer her except financial security, if that. Also lucky, my parents taught me the exact opposite of everything you have offered in your statement. Some advice, if you ever have a daughter, give her up for adoption. It seems you have nothing to offer her.
    Your misogynistic attitude is one of many of the reasons Pakistan is falling apart as a nation. Keep expecting half of your population to be a spineless doormat, sitting at home, popping out babies and obeying others; the nation will end up nowhere except a heap of overpopulation, violence, lack of tolerance, economic failure and misogyny. Oh wait…….. Recommend

  • Hala Syed

    and here’s the thing people honestly don’t care that much. everyone has their own problems. so they are not likely to be fixated on yours. they will say something judgmental out of habit and move on to say something judgmental about some one else. but they don’t really care what you do except as a comparison to make themselves feel better. so trying to please people like that is ridiculous and futileRecommend

  • MyraM93

    Ah, the smell of patriarchy in the air never gets oldRecommend

  • Hala Syed

    actually you are the one who sounds vengeful and bitter. its ok if you don’t agree with the author- different people have different views. no one is stopping you from marrying the “homily beautiful bride”. good for you. but please consider that there may be people who would pick a more tolerant and accepting partner over you. if the masses of the nation will continue to be conservative why does it bother you that a few people with slightly different views choose this medium to share their views with like-minded people?Recommend

  • sane

    She is not Meera. She is another TV actress, Sadia Imam.Recommend

  • Hala Syed

    women dream of amazing weddings because they are told that weddings are the only worthwhile things that women can do. if being married is their only purpose its not surprising that they go to such lengths and expenses to make it a reality. if society in general praise women for accomplishments outside marriage they will be more inclined to pass over these ridiculous expenses.
    but if you tell some one from the day that they are born that the ONLY day they will be important is their wedding day you cannot blame them for overdoing it on that dayRecommend

  • MyraM93

    And besides, ET themselves choose which picture they want headlining these blog posts, not the writers themselves :)Recommend

  • MyraM93

    Yeah, and often enough its the middle and lower class who become broke or go into debt while getting their daughters married and everything that comes with it, such as the dowry. Basically, whichever ‘class’ you are a part of in Pakistan, it all comes down to one thing: extravagance is wrong and highly inappropriate, for whatever reasons.

    And i was in Pakistan for the first 15 years of my life, and i’m still very much a part of it, even from far away. Visiting home is a must at least once or twice a year!Recommend

  • MyraM93

    Yes, and it never really amounts to anything, all this worry. And yet…Recommend

  • ptr

    You should have sorted these issues out before getting married’ When things are made clear probability of such events is reduced to minimum’Recommend

  • ptr

    most of the times “In laws” of the unfortunate girl, are those who provide the girl with reasonable amount of “tannay” for not bringing enough dowry’ specially Mother and Sisters in law’Recommend

  • ptr

    the appreciation you are talking about could be missing in case of boys too, in a family where whole purpose of getting education boys is to start earning asap and for girls is to get a good rishta. Thing is, you are not the only one’ and you can always convince even the most cruel parents to accept some of your demands which are considered immoral specially for girls’Recommend

  • Batool

    Education and working of girls/ women outside homes leads to flirting and haram sexual relationships, that is why this is restricted by Islam.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Correct. And even more unfortunate that the family that is to embrace a newcomer is the very source of taunting and nastiness. I can’t relate to the in-law system as I grew up in the US and Pakistani couples here don’t generally live with anyone else, but I can only imagine the situation.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Please tell me you’re being sarcastic…Recommend

  • Nobody

    Please don’t take people’s advice when they tell you to ‘accept’ nonsensical and misogynistic traditions. Understand they are reality, but don’t accept them! Things don’t change otherwise.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Guest

    Actually, it seems more like that you are a vengeful, bitter person who has
    been b!#$% slapped by a few ladies (perhaps even beaten) due to your lack of manners and intelligence. No wonder you vent out your frustration on other ladies by launching personal attacks behind the safety of your keyboard.

    I have news for you, you will marry a ‘slave’ girl one day, you will live your life never knowing the joys of a true, balanced relationship.Recommend

  • Minahil

    my parents aren’t cruel. But the problem i have is with their vision, as in, they still think that woman should live her life compromisingly… She holds nothing of her own. The only aim of her life is to be a “good wife” rest whether education or anything else, its all a waste. Her quality education or spirit of making her own career is useless. I am always told that all my university education is just a waste of time, i should rather spend time with family more as this would not benefit me in my later life.Recommend

  • Quantum

    You are from USA, hence you believe in empowerment of women. I have seen you comment about other topic. You had the courage to reply to batools remark. I would consider it an insult to reply to such a preposterous assertion she made. You will be surprised how Islamic religious scholar are against this idea that if you pursuing higher education among the opposite sex, you will be indulging in sexual act. As sexual urges among Muslims are so powerful. If that was the case higher education in the Western world would not be a place of higher learning but a roman orgy theater :) attaining education is mandated by Islam for both sexes. I don’t let ulemas to play with my grey matter :) Pakistan is culturally couple of centuries behind western countries. It wil take 23rd century to bring Pakistan to 20th century fold in terms of civility and women empowerment and sadly Islam is used to deny women’s progression.Recommend

  • MrRollsRoyce

    Thanks.

    I hope we can build a future where all girls get an environment of equal opportunity and respect as human beings.Recommend

  • Queen

    It is really amazing to read such comment and that too from a girl. Ma’am, I guess you need to review your basic Islamic teachings ( if you are a Muslim that is ). Islam has never prohibited women from receiving education. In fact, Prophet Muhammad ( SAW ) has said that it is compulsory for both men and women to receive education. Secondly, receiving education in schools, colleges, or universities does not lead to “flirting” or “sexual relationships” When a girl comes out of her home either to receive education or to work for her living, she carries with her the trust, values, and belief which is inculcated in her by her parents during her upbringing. Women are considered to be weak creatures but mind you, they can be the strongest one when it comes to protecting their prestige and dignity.

    After reading your comment, it seems that you are an educated person (you presence on ET ) indicates that. If it is true then I would like to ask you to imagine for a second what you would have had been today if your parents would not have had provided you good education.

    P.S. A word of advice Ma’am Batool, Never underestimate the power of women.Recommend

  • Zubair Javed

    I understand but still you made good points. keep writing.Recommend

  • Sherine Khalil

    Batool, it is not restricted by Islam in anyway.
    Get your facts straight and stop giving Islam a bad name.Recommend