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As far as my own knowledge and experience has taken me, I have witnessed a steady increase in the number of single Pakistani young women of marriageable age in the last few years. While choosing to remain single of one’s own choice is entirely reasonable, many of these women do wish to get married but cannot for lack of appropriate suitors.

The cause of this has been pondered by many a worrisome mother whilst they scout for suitable young men for their daughters and giving up at last, the finger has been pointed to what seems to be the one and only brick wall in their pursuit: their daughters are too highly educated.

Obtaining the right to an education that is equal to a man’s has been the triumph of women through the late 19th and 20th century. Yet, there was a certain aspect of this struggle that might’ve been left unconsidered: would men want to marry women who are at par or surpass them in knowledge, experience, and (heaven forbid) salary?

With opportunities to study abroad presenting themselves, many ambitious Pakistani girls travel to foreign lands seeking education, experience and independence. Yet, these delights are short lived for they return home to find themselves much altered — their horizons have been broadened, ideas of marriage and companionship have become different, and the standards defining a suitable mate are much higher than before. Their homeland, however, is very much the same and the required traits in a daughter in law or wife are relatively unchanged.

Education is pretty low in that list with over education (in other words the female being more educated than the male) considered a drawback. Where are these women of superior intellect to find Pakistani men who can provide them with the freedom to pursue their careers and not feel challenged by their ambitions?

Another drawback of this proposed education is the rigidity it brings. Becoming your own person often makes you averse to anything that is not your idea of perfect and people accustomed to independence are unaccustomed to compromise. Women who wish to find a man who is both Pakistani and liberal, religious yet un-interfering, both Eastern and Western, traditional and modern are looking for a needle in a haystack. And when that needle cannot be found and they are no longer receiving any offers of marriage, they are left to consider: would it have been better to settle for second best? Perhaps they should have altered their expectations or rather not have had such high standards?

While pursuing one’s goals and seeking professional self actualization is important, most would agree that it cannot overshadow one’s emotional needs. The companionship and support provided by a spouse is equally (if not more) essential and an ideal situation would allow both to progress simultaneously. But ideal situations rarely present themselves and in Pakistani society at least, there appears to be a conflict between the two. This in turn makes the situation very difficult for women who are more educated than most, have higher expectations as a consequence of that yet also to wish to marry within their religion and culture.

If this premise is true and highly-educated, career-oriented women have a much lower chance of finding a suitable counterpart, the question remains: at the gallows where marriage and education stand on opposite sides, which of the two is worth the sacrifice?
I hope nobody would take it serious as its merely meant for discussion.

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