In all civilizations, women have been playing their role to assist their families. Since the beginning of time, woman has been indulged in development of society in one way or the other. While talking about women empowerment, common perception is that this phenomenon benefits the women only. Whereas, the beneficiaries of women empowerment are all; including men, women, society, community and the overall economy of a country.
Ever-increasing responsibilities and lesser opportunities along with narrow or no exposure have always been a great challenge for Pakistani women. Like men, women are also entitled to live with dignity and require freedom to spend fear-free and contented life. The issue of women empowerment in Pakistan has always been of supreme importance to opinion leaders, reformers, social analysts and political thinkers.
Women are held responsible for doing all home chores, upbringing kids and feed families. In rural areas of Pakistan, women work side-by-side with men. They do home chores, farming, harvesting etc; and in urban areas they do office jobs and once back from the job they take care of their family and home. In spite of all this, most of the times their efforts and struggle are taken for granted. To be treated with respect is every woman’s fundamental right. It’s also her right to be cherished for all the efforts she makes for her family and to boost up the economy. But, majority of women are deprived of this right as well.
According to the latest statistics, the current female population in Pakistan is 49.2 % whereas women participation in labour force is only 28%. Clearly, this ratio is extremely low. Women empowerment can play marvellous role in the economic development of Pakistan and that’s not possible without women employment. Today’s women are educated, confident and willing to work. Just a slight motivation, support and resources can make them do wonders. It’s time to recognise that enhanced women participation in modern society is mandatory in order to ensure prosperous economy.
Gender equality is a basic human right and women empowerment is a critical aspect of achieving gender equality. It involves increasing a woman’s sense of self worth, give her decision making power, her access to opportunities/resources, her power and control over her own life inside and outside the home, her ability to affect environment and her overall quality of life. The point to be noted is that no country has fully achieved gender equality till date.
Unfortunately, women in developing countries like Pakistan are suppressed and considered inferior in many regards. Conventional system hardly allows them to flourish, fight and stand for their rights. Women empowerment calls for inevitable change in conventional system. The need of the hour is to provide women with harassment-free workplaces and business environment that supports and welcomes them to improve their wellbeing.
UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact have developed “Women’s Empowerment Principles” in order to provide practical guidance to businesses and private sector to make sure women empowerment in the marketplace, workplace and community. Globally acknowledged principles are as follows:
- Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
- Treat all women and men fairly at work — respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
- Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
- Promote education, training and professional development for women
- Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
- Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
- Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality
UNDP Associate Administrator Rebecca Grynspan once stated that “women empowerment is catalytic and central” to achieve social and environmental goals. Women are central actors creating the case for the sustainable development triple-win-strategy – economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.
In developed societies, women are highly literate, hold executive positions, are well aware of their rights and thus they relish recognition, high social status and a luxurious life. Perhaps, in Pakistan only a small percentage of women have access to all these things. Undoubtedly, in past few years Pakistani government has taken rigorous steps to create opportunities for women but numbers of legal, social and regional factors tend to hinder Pakistani women employment in overall job market.
Recent researches demonstrate that workplace gender diversity helps businesses perform better and indicates that self interest and common interest can come together. For various reasons, Pakistan’s market and workplace isn’t that women friendly. However, ensuring the incorporation of women’s talents, skills and potential requires intentional actions, rational and deliberate policies across all sectors. Political and social support, high literacy rate, better infrastructure, access to resources, exposure to opportunities and sincerity of ruling class is must for ensuring women empowerment and consequently sustainable economic development in Pakistan.
Women empowerment is our right not a grant!