Gender discrimination refers to unfair treatment or inequitable difference between distinct groups of people in society in terms of rights, opportunities and status. It goes without saying that gender discrimination is a widespread human rights issue in Pakistan that is badly affecting huge proportion of women in the country. Women make up nearly half of total population (48.8 percent) which clearly means that they are the real asset and strength of the country. Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s sustainable socio-economic, political and cultural development wholly lies in the equality, empowerment, participation and representation of women in all walks of life. Despite that the status of women is below par. More often than not, women encounter multidimensional problems such as honour killing, acid throwing, harassment, sexual assaults, domestic violence and so on. In addition, they witness greater inequality in access to health and education. Equal economic opportunities, political inclusion and decision-making participation are merely a day dream for large chunk of women in Pakistan.Men are the masters of women’s destiny in a country where they have been denied all decision-making powers — cultural norms and a patriarchal mind-set are the primary factors derailing women from progressing in our societyIt is widely believed that gender equality is pre-requisite for building inclusive, progressive, peaceful and pluralistic societies. Gender parity at educational, economic, political and representative fronts makes prosperity and change inevitable. Regrettably, the gender gap in Pakistan is alarmingly wider. According to Global Gender Gap Index Report 2018 released by World Economic Forum (WEF), Pakistan has been placed 148 out of 149 countries -the second worst country regarding gender equality in the world.There is no denying that the status of women in health, education and participation especially in labour market and politics is also unsatisfactory. Reportedly, only 25 percent women are involved in the workforce, far less than the world average (48.7). When it comes to financial autonomy, according to World Bank Global Index Report 2017, only 7 percent of women in the country have financial services account.Gender inequality is a deep-rooted menace in Pakistan that is potentially hampering its socio-economic advancement and progress. Men are the masters of women’s destiny in the country where women are denied all decision-making powers. Cultural norms and a patriarchal mind-set are the primary factors that are derailing women from coming out of four walls to play their part. That’s why women are always behind bars and unable to stand shoulder by shoulder with men. Women who live in poor households – battle grave economic obstacles ranging from poor infrastructure to inadequate transportation facilities, financial constraints to inadequate nutrition and extreme water shortages to poor sanitation. It is evident that with the exclusion of almost 100 million women, Pakistan cannot reach the pinnacle of progress, peace and stability. Muhammad Ali Jinnah famously said, “No Nation can rise to the heights of glory unless her women stand side by side with men.” Therefore, there is dire need to ensure that half of Pakistan’s has equal opportunities in political leadership, economic decision-making and managerial representation. Government must chalk out effective strategies to bridge the widening gender gap and inequalities through social, economic, educational and democratic participation and partnership of women.Furthermore, women financial empowerment is also crucial for closing the gender gap. Equitable financial access will not only foster women’s bargaining power within the household but will also help improve their health, education, nutrition and food security status. In addition, state should strive to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women. Most importantly, the government should work round the clock to empower women through education so that they can be active economic actors in the realm of socio-political development of Pakistan.The writer is a freelance columnist and an undergraduate student of Economics at University of Sindh, JamshoroPublished in Daily Times, January 14th 2019.