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Women empowerment: a study of Pakistan

Last updated on 19.05.2020

The colour in the picture of the universe is from the existence of the female. It is commonly said that “behind every successful man, there is a woman” but behind every successful woman is herself.

Introduction:

We are almost half of the total population of Pakistan but still are under-represented in every professional field. The total population of the women in Pakistan is about 48.64% but despite of having the equal rights and representation, they are facing a lot of obstacles which prevent them to step forward. Generally, in every society in the world, women are considered underprivileged, submissive, inferior and less empowered to men. Pakistan is one of the countries in world with the greater young population (Mustafa & Jameel, August 2016). Thus our country can make use of this greater population containing the major portion of women in the development of our country. It is the right of every women in Pakistan to enjoy equal rights, exercise their power, have equal social status, economic independency, prestige and equality like their male counterparts. The focus of this paper is to promote the women’s access to economical, political and social empowerment so they can not only improve themselves and strengthen their communities but also contribute to the progress of Pakistan.

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The word ‘’Empower’’ means ‘’to give authority, power and ability. Empowerment means giving a person or a group an authority or right to take stand and challenge something. (Historical background of women empowerment ). Empowerment means giving individuals power to makes choices and desired decisions about their life. The World bank says: “Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.”

Women are considered as one of the oppressed group in our society. Women Empowerment is a phenomenon of making women self-conscious about their rights, responsibilities, abilities, self-confidence, to have a control over their decisions and lives, to perceive their equality and believe their power to become an active part of our society. (Sheikh, Meraj, & Sadaqat, 2015-2016). It refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, educational, gender, or economic strength of women.

Background:

In 1995, 4th UN World Conference for women was held and in the National Report it was admitted that women were facing great oppression by patriarchy, socio-cultural norms, traditions and customs in Pakistan (Rasul, 2014). And thus the phenomenon of women empowerment in Pakistan started.

Perceptions of women in Pakistan; A need of Empowering Women:

Pakistani society is considered as a society where men are dominated over women. A women is considered as a secondary citizen whose job is to give birth and raise her children. This is because of the social, traditional and cultural norms in our society (Ferdoos, Social status of rural and urban working women in Pakistan – A comparative study, November 2005). According to United Nations Development Programme (1996), inside/outside duality exists in Paksitan where women are bounded inside the four walls of home which limit the women independence (Goheer). Due to these norms, women are restricted to get education, not accessed to jobs and social services. There are barbarous and inhumane customs such as: exchange marriages, karokari, marrying with Quran, physical and mental torture, domestic and emotional violence by their husbands (Chaudhary, Chani, & Pervaiz, 2012). In rural areas of Pakistan, women work in agricultural fields, share more burden than their males and bear physical adversity in which they remain busy in doing home tasks all the day long, Also most of the women in these areas endure complete work-load inside as well as outside the home which leads to severeness of their health such as: anaemia and malnutrition (Ferdoos, Social status of rural and urban working women in Pakistan – A comparative study, November 2005).

Most of the women in Pakistan do not have the power to make decision in household matters and even about their lives (Bajwa, Ali, & Hussain, 2015). Family structure is another important factor which determine the empowerment of the women in family. Because there is patriarchal system of family in almost every family of Pakistan so, woman’s opinions are not given importance (Sheikh, Meraj, & Sadaqat, 2015-2016)

Our religion Islam gave much impotance to the women 1400 years ago and gave their appropriate status. Most of the people misinterpret the verses of Quran and Ahadiths to hinder women empowerment. It is the un-Islamic customs that we got from our diffused culture. Following the sick social norms and ignoring the true teachings of Islam have made our women more unguarded (Chaudhry, Nosheen, & Lodhi, 2012). Another factor is that our society judge a male and a female differently. A girl in a family is considered the ‘honor’ of the family. If a male adult in family offend any social norm then it is not considered a matter of concern as much but if a female do the same, then it becomes a catastrophe to the family and woman face disastrous results for that. It is totally an unjust society in which a man can do whatever he wants but a women cannot do anything because this would put her ‘izzat’ in danger (Ferdoos, Social status of rural and urban working women in Pakistan – A comparative study, November 2005). Women suffer from acid attacks, rapes, honor killing and domestic violence in Pakistan (Mustafa & Jameel, August 2016).

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Due to all these discriminations, there is a need to empower the women of our country to make them realize their real status in society and making them more stronger physically, mentally, financially, economically and politically. Empowering the women would eliminate gender discrimination, hurdles in women education, domestic violence and harassment that our women face. Both the man and women are God’s creatures and no one has dominancy over other (Sohail, 2014).

How are women empowered?

  • By decreasing the gender discrimination
  • By decreasing the inequalities between men and women in aspects of economics, political and social life
  • By educating girls and women

Ways to Empower Women:

There are three ways to empower women:

  • Social Empowerment
  • Economic Empowerment
  • Political Empowerment

Social Empowerment

Women Education

Social empowerment includes making a sense of autonomy, self-confidence, self-identity among the women and promoting good health and most importantly the education of women.

As Nelson Mandela said that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

In Pakistan, women are deprived of their basic rights in some parts of the country that prevent them from taking part in social development. One of the basic rights is education. There is a low level of education in Pakistan. Most of the children are not able to go to school due to poverty in rural areas of Pakistan. The overall literacy rate of Pakistan is very low as compared to the other countries. Those who get education can not reach at the level of higher education. The percentage of female getting education is much lower than males and it is due to the sick mentality of the people who think that there is no need of bringing women outside the home and educating them. And this is the reason why women of our country have a little access to the higher education. Illiteracy rate in Pakistan is 60%.

According to the recent statistical data on literacy rate in Pakistan (2018), Punjab is the province where the literacy rate of female is higher than the rates in other provinces but still less than rate of male. The rate is low in the other provinces like Kpk and Balochistan because these are less developed than Punjab. The reason may be the social and cultural norms that are more practiced in these areas. Also the education system is not so active and there is a lack of institutes: school, colleges and universities.

The following figure shows that, from 2005 to 2014, woman literacy rate increased from 35.37% to 44.28% in Pakistan. The literacy rate in rural areas are very lower than that in the urban areas. There is only an increase in the rate of 9% which is very low but still increasing and that is a positive thing.

The lack of the knowledge and awareness led to the poor condition of litracy rate in Pakistan. Because most of the people do not promote women education and put the hurdles in the way to educate women are not aware of importance of women education and this leads to the domination of the males in the country (Mustafa & Jameel, August 2016).

Education plays a very crucial role in bringing the women forward and empowering them. Education gives them the strength to be in a better position in a society, become skillfull, to participate in economic activities and gives them the courage to face all the challenges that they encounter in their lives. An educated woman will certainly concentrate on the education of her daughter and the daughter will educate her own daughter as well and thus the chain would never ends giving rise to an educated society (Sheikh, Meraj, & Sadaqat, 2015-2016).

According to a Napoleon quote: “Give me an educated mother, I shall promise you the birth of a civilized, educated nation.” These exhibit the power of an educated women.

Islamic verses and Ahadiths also depicts the importance of education for both man and women. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74 (Mustafa & Jameel, August 2016).

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Economic empowerment

Economic empowerment includes having equal rights of employment and labour. Empowering women economically helps positively in attaining the Empowerment of women.

Few years ago, there were a few fields that were considered appropriate and respectable for women such as: teaching and medicine. These two professions were dominated by the women. But now women are entering in middle-class male jobs which are: secretaries, computer operators or engineers, telephone operator, accountants and drafts designers. This changed the social status of working women in society and in family. The labour force participation rate of female in Pakistan is very low as compared to males due to gender sequestering. The enterence of the women in office level require gender commixing which include the interaction with the male colleague as well as public therefore, considered as incompatible and disgraceful for females. The females in such professions are mainly from the middle-classes which are more conservative. Women in Pakistan are coming out of the homes and getting jobs so that they become independent economically and acquire a status in society. The participation of women is important in order to get over the gainsays of globalization. The job opportunities for women are increased which leads to the high labour force participation rate of women. And it has also increased the difficulties for working women. Working women in rural areas are aged while in urban areas, are mostly married. They want to work with their husbands in order to support the family and attaining the better living standards and also share the decision making power. The working females in Pakistan are getting a high social status as compared with non-working women because they are supporting their familes financially and contributing towards the economy of our country (Ferdoos, Social Status of Rural and Urban Working Women in Pakistan – A Comparative Study , November 2005 ). By working side by side with their male partners and contributing financially also leads to the appreciation, better status and possition in their families (Sheikh, Meraj, & Sadaqat, 2015-2016).

Recent data of female labour force participation has shown overwhelming results. The labour force participation of women is rising till 2016 and so on (Pakistan: Female labor force participation).

Women of Pakistan are actively participating in economic activities which is a positive sign for empowering the women and it contribute in gender equality. Also if the women are given the employment along with the secure work-place then it leads to the increased capabilities, self-confidence, respect in society, better professional position and financial autonomy of women (Bajwa, Ali, & Hussain, 2015).

Microfinance is a recent phenomenon which include giving women the credit and financial activities for income for women herself which enables the women to feel secure, work independently and rely on her own resources (Ringkvist, May, 2013).

According to the very recent report of Employment to population ratio, it is 20% and 64% for females and males respectively. According to International Labour Organization only 24% women of total population are in labour maket. This rate is three times lower than that for males (Ahmad, 2018).

Recent reports suggest that Paksitan’s GDP per capita is $5″,235, lower than other countries which is due to low participation of women in labour market. It is suggested in the report that if the this participation of women is increased to 40% then GDP would be much improved shifting Pakistan to a middle-income country (Khawar, 2018).

Political Empowerment

Political empowerment include the women’s participation in political system of the country, electorates and parliments.

Due to patriarchal system in Pakistan, politics is not considered appropriate profession for women. Most of the women now in Pakistan’s political system belongs to strong political background. Women in any political parties are used as a tool to gather public or conducting political a number of great women personalities such as: Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto who was the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, Dr. Fehmida Mirza who was the first woman speaker of National Assembly, Sherry Rehman, Hina Rabbani khar, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Anusha Rehman khan, Marvi Memon, Maryam Nawaz and many more (Ahmad & Anwar, 2017).

The Constitution of Pakistan does not refrain the women Participation in politics but it is the mindset of the people who hinder their way due to gender-inequality. Women are not given the key positions in the political parties.

According to United Nations Development Programme, there is only 15% women participation in politics across the world. According to IPU ranking, Pakistan is at 85th position with 20.6% participation of women in elections 2013 and 70 out of 340 seats of National Assembly/upper house were reserved foe women. Voter turnout of women is also increasing gradually which is a positive sign (Ghafoor & Haider, 2018).

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A country’s growth is determined by the participation of women in political system. The major panorama of Pakistan’s politics is the women participation since the time of independence but gradually it become limited to a particular group of people. The women low participation is mainly due to social system of Pakistan (Latif, Usman, Kataria, & Abdullah, 2015).

Empowering women politically is not a permanent solution of gender-discrimination. The main causes are the social and economic inaqualities which keep women from moving forward. Women empowerment enables a woman to get education, health, participate in income generating activities, participate in politics, have decision making power, self-security, independence, work side by side with men, a sense of equality and these all leads to the decrease in poverty of a country, high GDP, increase in economy, positive effect on society about women, better life style and a welfare of society (Sohail, 2014).

Proposed Initiatives by Govt. of Punjab (2017):

  • 1. Formulation of Punjab Gender Policy by Women Development Department to provide vision and direction to women.
  • 2. Interest free micro finance to 300″,000 females to start own businesses through Chief Minister’s Self Employment Scheme in 2017-18 by PSIC for Women Economic Empowerment.
  • 3. Establishment of Women Business Incubation Centers (WBIC) in Chambers of Commerce & Industries in 8 cities and ‘ One Stop ’ platform for women led businesses by PSIC/PBIT for Women Entrepreneurship. (Proposed Initiatives 2017)

Organizations:

Organizations that are working for the well-being of women throughout Pakistan are: Local Supportive organizations (LSOs), WSO- Women Social Welfare Organization, SWSS- Support with Working Solution, Kaarvan Foundation, Oriental Women Organization, Shahina Aftab Foundation, All Pakistan Women Association, Wises-women industrial social education society.

UN WOMEN, The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, is also working for the well-being of women.

Constitution of Pakistan (1973):

The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (1973) ensures fundamental rights to all citizens without any discrimination of caste, creed, sex and religion.

All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone. (The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973)

Women Empowerment in the light of Quran:

Allah says: ‘’O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.’’ (An-Nisa 4:1)

And in the Quran: ‘’O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.’’ (Al-Hujraat 49:13)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74.

These verses and hadith proves the equality of man and women. They both have equal rights according to Islam. Both are the partners and no one is superior over other.

Conclusion:

We are living in an era of globalization where violence against women is not endurable anymore. Depriving women from their social and economic is also one form of violence. It is necessary to indulge women in our economic, social and political systems and this is only possible by empowering women of our country. Mobilization enables a woman to build self-confidence. By social, economic and political empowerment, women can contribute to the economy of the country and also can support their families financially and by educating them.

In urban areas of Pakistan, women are getting education and participating in employment but the rural areas need attention. There is a need of making women aware of their rights. Media is playing an important role in this regard.

Recommendations:

Following are some recommendations about the empowerment of women in our country.

  • 1. Effective initiatives should be taken to eliminate violence and harassment against women.
  • 2. Women education is promoted and awareness is raised among the women.
  • 3. A society with no violence, social and economic justice leads to the positive peace.
  • 4. NGO’s, organizations and media should work actively in enhancing the awareness among the women so that they would raise their voices for their fundamental rights.
  • 5. Steps are taken to provide safe working environment to the women.
  • 6. Policy makers should take actions to minimize the gender discrimination in society as well as at workplace. Also, gender discrimination should be removed through legislation.

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