March 8th – International Women’s Day (IWD) – was an interesting day to note for the people of Pakistan, especially city dwellers who chose to commemorate this day in different ways. We had an amazing opportunity to unite together on this day for the start of future development. With the growing realisation of not only this world, but this nation to include more than half of its population and listen to their needs and issues, we have arrived in 2019. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no turning back-the wheels have turned and women have started marching to the beat of a drum which is growing louder everyday. It is very noticeable that a change of times is here and hopefully for the better.With IWD last week, we saw such fanfare throughout the nation as women took up stands in different ways to show their solidarity towards social issues faced by women not only regarding their place in this world, but voicing challenges faced by women in workplacesall over Pakistan. The statistics which show that a double income contribution is now a norm for an average household as a means for survival is a key note enough for us to realise the need to move quickly with resources to empower and enable women towards working environments where they are comfortable. The nation seemed stirred alive with panel discussions and seminar events starting from cultural to social, philanthropic and of course, scholarly.We saw a nationwide peaceful march called the aurat (women’s) march which was held in different cities, raising eyebrows, posing questions and most of all creating discussions. And there it was – amidst the buzzthat is exactly what we needed (warranted, wanted or not) – a reaction to engage in discussion. A conversation that has taken place in drawing rooms, in articles in bits and pieces, portrayed by extreme situations in theatre and books, turning heads yes, but barely touching the surface of needs to be addressed wholly. Certainly,this is not enough to change the dynamics of policies of the nation. Needs and challenges that are daunting to the more than half of this nation’s population. A population that is willing to contribute towards the growth of the nation but is held back at times and in many cases is unable to do so. That day, whether it was a female or male, each of them had an opinion about the status of women which was put forward boldly, whatever it was; there was no denial of the dialogue that has been evoked.A means to attract more focussed attention to this burning issue was now found. The demand “Let us talk” seemed to resonate from the women standing, sitting, and marching. Each organisation seemed to perform some service in the name of the day and dedicate it towards benefit. Business women, writers, workers, university students from all over Pakistan united for the common goal.What is important is that the seeds of realisation must be sown which will grow in the grass roots of our nation, imbedded with grace and dignity into our very philosophyIn a country such as ours, the work towards gender inclusion and empowerment has taken place with great amount of effort but further development to create a wave of change still remains to be done.A solidified effort from the government still needs to be put into place. The decision to include a space for women in public limited companies on the board of directors was an important decision. From incubations forstart-ups, which have provided much needed relief and have started to develop into resources for women entrepreneurs to philanthropist’s contributing towards education, vital steps towards empowerment have already been taken. We now need to look at the type of education that is being given.There is a dire need to systematically fund and further develop useful curricula and instil grounds for a more solid structure of education with think tanks and education revision boards.Better educational policies, scholarship packages in specialised education, making vocational studies and perhaps even basic IT education a must to keep up trends in the digital world are needed. We have seen growth towards well structured incubations that have fuelled home based businesses into an income growth to millions. A sector of this has been touched with great success with women innovators such as Nadia PatelGanjee leading one of the foremost successful free platform “Sheops” which gave thousands of women an online space for their businesses from the ease of their homes; a successful model because of its planning and support and of course dedication. What we would need is more key players like that and further research to provide more platforms with training.This may sound utopian coming from a layman’s perspective but a means to go work in itself poses a great challenge to not only women but men as well. Although great work has occurred, we still need further development of the infrastructure of transport that would support the populous half even being able to get to work in the first place, safely, securely without thinking twice about it.A dire need is also to hear notes from women already in positions of power.If political points can be put aside, think tanks can be put into place to take up not only vocational training but support career placement and services that provide jobs after that vocational training.Women’s day is over but are the women still left standing? It is moments like this one must realise that the struggle must now be to catch up with the rest of the developed world in this aspect. I believe we can do it as we have already started years ago; it is the need of the world outside to realise how innovative a Pakistani woman can truly be. There is nothing a Pakistani woman cannot do; it must be now achieved with the support of the nation itself. Liberation and full rights for women have been a mantra the world over. These will develop as a natural cycle evolves in whatever way with the good, the bad, and with a lot of grey in between.What is important is that the seeds of realisation must be sown which will grow in the grass roots of our nation, imbedded with grace and dignity into our very philosophy. This is a time when we must as a nation ask ourselves where do we need to reach and what do we need to leave behind for the future generations of people that are yet to come.The writeris a freelance bloggerPublished in Daily Times, March 17th 2019.