Girls still being treated as aliens in medicine in the 21st century

UN Gender Equality

Marching in New York City for gender equality. Photo: UN Women/J Carrier (UN, 2015)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Unsa Athar, a final year M.B, B.S. student at King Edward Medical University, Lahore, Pakistan. Ms Athar is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). The opinion expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Not all of us can prevent a war; but most of us can help ease sufferings—of the body and the soul.

— Ruth Pfau

From Marie Curie to Ruth Pau, history is filled with stories of women who dedicated their lives for science and the betterment of the humanity. The story of Florence Nightingale was taught to us in school. The saddening death of Ruth Pau spread awareness about who she was, many people did not know about her before.

The examples of women sacrificing their lives for the sake of humanity are always considered odd in a 3rd world country. The literacy rate in Pakistan is 74 percent in the urban areas, in which males are 81 percent with females being on 68 percent.

These numbers show that gender equality is a concept still not understood and accepted by people in developing countries. Yes, the conditions have improved as compared to the past, but it is still a long way to go.

As medical students, when we are sitting on the benches of a lecture theatre, our professors always narrate the story of the times when there were only a bunch of girls sitting in the front line only. And now girls occupy more than 60 percent of the seats in a lecture theatre of any well-known medical school.

This increased numbers of girls in the medicine profession is hated in our country. Many reasons are given for that, the most frequently used one being “Girls do no work after graduation. They end up getting married. They WASTE the seat of a medical college which could have been used by a guy.” This is a fact, girls in Pakistan do end up not practicing medicine but that does not deny them the right to get educated. And if we dissect the situation, we can see who is at fault in their not practicing after graduation.

The pressure from the in-laws, the absence of support from the husband, the need to proudly showing off a doctor daughter in law but not letting her work, harassment at the work place; all these factors force a woman to give up her dream of becoming the leading physician in the field she loved. Here, as a girl, if you want to peruse what you love you have to break the norms and rules of the society.

Why have we made it so difficult for girls to be accepted as doctors who can compete side by side with men, despite all the social pressures? Why do we blame the girls for ‘wasting’ seats in the medical colleges? Why do we  not make working environment and conditions more favourable for girls? Why cannot we as family members be more supportive towards women who spend their whole lives managing their own kids and the ailing humanity at the same time?

Why are there less women around like Ruth Pau? When will we give our girls the opportunity to exhibit their full potentials? Why do we cut their wings and then put the blame on them for not flying? When will we practice and advocate gender equality in medicine?

About the author

Ms Unsa Athar is a final year M.B; B.S. student at King Edward Medical University, Lahore, Pakistan. She is an active participant of many co-curricular and extracurricular activities in campus and often write for US Magazine, The News International. She wrote this small piece to raise her voice against gender biasness in Pakistan. As a medical student, girls often have to face the dilemma of choosing between a career and family, which is heart breaking. “We need to encourage our girls to work. We need to tell them that their contribution to the society as doctors is just as important as any guy.”

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