Women Empowerment in Pakistan
Women constitute more than half of the population of Pakistan but still she is submissive and left behind in many fields by particular policies and mentalities. Despite sacrificial participation of women in the movement of independence, they remained ignored even after the independence of Pakistan. Gender discrimination is the basic cause of this phenomenon.
The process of gender discrimination and division of responsibility begins from childhood. Most of the children in government schools come from disadvantaged sections of the society and majority of them are girls as they can’t afford to pay high fees in the private schools. The girl child is bereaved of her rights of education and the situation is worse in the poor families. The unequal access to education and health opportunities as compared to boys further restricts their growth and development. Girls are normally given trivial tasks to earn fewer bucks rather than giving an opportunity to acquire education. As a domestic worker she is also required to look after younger siblings and do domestic work to help her mother. She is often held responsible for all domestic tasks but is kept far away from participation in decision making. All these problems keep the girls away from education.
In Pakistan, several reforms were introduced in the past to bring betterment in the women condition. For the first time in 1956 constitution 10 seats were given to women in National Assembly to ensure the political participation of women. These seats were further increased in 1962 and 1973 constitution.
In February 2000, the Government requested Asian Development Bank for technical Assistance in preparing Gender Reform Programme, to improve the frame work of Gender policies and to develop institutional Reforms proposals of interventions at the federal, provincial and district level, for a proactive approach to include viable perspective in public sector policies programmes and projects. As a consequence, Gender Reform Action Programme was launched in August 2002. It says “Empower Women, Empower Nation”.
The Project aims at achieving the Following objectives.
- To seek transformation of the provincial government into an organization that actively participates and promotes gender equality.
- To ensure that all provincial civil servants have an understanding of gender issue and are able to concentrate positively towards the goal of gender mainstreaming.
- To ensure that all public sector operation in province promote gender equality and reduce gender inequality.
- To make possible adequate representation of women in decision making process in the provincial governments both in the political & executive domains.
Apart from this programme, different steps are taken to empower women in the society. 10% quota is given to women in federal jobs for the active participation in civil service. Pakistan Army started recruiting women officers. Pakistan air force also has women fighter pilots on duty alongside their male counterparts. Even Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed was the first women Prime Minister of the Muslim World which was the manifestation of women empowerment in Pakistan. The national assembly speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza from Pakistan, is also the first Muslim lady speaker of Muslim World.
Women represent in almost every field of life and in some cases they have superseded men in several fields. The government of General Pervaiz Musharraf took few positive and bold steps in this regard and ensured the women participation to the full. He reserved 1/3rd women seats in the local government ordinance.
The question arises here is “Are women empowering in true sense after these steps. Still the answer is “No”. The later answer is not wholly depicting a bleak picture. But the women are still facing many problems like harassment, social violence and others. She is not empowered in the real sense therefore she is still facing many social and economic issues. The fault lies in the society which is not literate enough to give equal opportunity to the women. One example of this social cruelty is that only unmarried women between the age of 18 to 26 years will be given employment in the garment factories as unskillful labor. This law is the root cause of exploitation of married and older women workers. Also the employers can’t issue maternity leave or day care for babies will not be provided.
Additionally, women are given jobs in private sectors but some are lucky enough to get responsible seats while others are treated as a symbol of attraction. Improving literacy rate is quite different from educating people. People have partially accepted the fact that women should be given chance in of education still they are reluctant to allow co-education and doing job in the field.
Interestingly, religion is often quoted as a sole reason for confining women to home. However, Islam does not restrict the women to not to earn her livelihood. Moreover Hazrat Mohammad (P.B.U.H) acted upon the advice of Hazrat Ume-salma (R.A) during Sulah-e-Hadabia. This is a powerful example of empowering the women. But in Pakistan, there are few places where women are deprived of the right to vote.
Local media highlights women issues and problems but ignores women achievement. Only modern Media can change and understand the complex reality. What gives us hope is their continued struggle and defiance of traditional authority will bring huge change in the life of women. It should also be mentioned here that many Ulemas and jurists have realized that in the twenty first century women should participate in the economic activities to bring change in the society.