It is the accepted reality that women’s empowerment and their economic participation are indispensable for the development of a nation and growth of its economy.
In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fifth goal is “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
Women constitute around half of Pakistan’s population. However, regrettably, they are not contributing much to the economy due to outdated social values and principles.
The article 38 of the constitution of Pakistan“ guarantees citizens the right to pursue economic opportunities irrespective of sex, caste or creed and related labour laws.”Simultaneously, the principal planning vision document 2025 by the Government of Pakistan recognises the women’s participation and access to opportunities essential to unrelenting economic and social development.
On the other hand, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016 ranks Pakistan 144 out of 145 countries in economic participation and opportunities.
In today's mainstream society, women are restricted in solitary confinement, bereft of social and economic opportunities, being targeted for honour killing, regularly being assaulted, abducted and harassed, and are excluded from decision-making.
According to Oxfam Issue Brief (2016), women in Pakistan spend about 4.3 hours per day more than men. In return, male agriculture workers earn 300 rupees per day whereas female agricultural workers earn only 175 rupees.
According to a report on ‘Women in Agriculture in Pakistan' published by FAO in 2015, the agricultural productivity and ensuring household food security indicate that 72 percent of women are associated with agriculture sector out of the total women labour force in Pakistan.
The prevalent gender discrimination causes to reduce the chances for women to contribute to economic development. Due to increasing inequalities, women have little access to resources, the job which leads to slow growth in the economy. The bottom line is that women are “underutilised, underpaid, under-appreciated—and over-exploited.”
Working women should be respected. Their wages should be equivalent to men. They should be given more opportunities in the job market. Space should be created for women in politics. They should be motivated to do businesses. The education attainment ratio among women should be increased. The household care work should be recognised. Health care facilities should be provided to them.
Women empowerment will increase participation of women in the labour force, and that will result in reducing poverty and the gender gap. There would be fair social and economic opportunities. The access of women farmers to the resources will increase production and they will be able to support their families, and will also have their own properties.
Accompanied with government institutes, non-governmental organisations, corporations, media, civil society organisations and individuals all to gather should take responsibility to ensure women’s empowerment – a road to economic empowerment of Pakistan.
The writer is working with Indus Consortium, a national not for profit organisation, as a Research Officer. He is based in Islamabad.