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If You Really Want Pakistan To Prosper, Women Participation Is Vital. There Are Numbers Proving It

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Haider Ali stresses the need for gender parity in all fields of life in this article and provides examples from various countries of the world to drive his point home.

All early civilizations treated women like slaves. In fact they were treated worse than slaves, buried and burnt alive and considered a cause of the evil. No one talked about their rights even when slavery was abolished. Magna Carta followed by French and Russian revolutions saw the emergence of women as active players in the hitherto male dominated society. Now in the 21st century, their role is acknowledged in building of nations. They are found in political and administrative arena in the form of Angela Merkel as German Chancellor, Hasina Wajid as Bangladeshi premier, Colinda Graber as Croatian President and Christine Lagarde as IMF (International Monetary Fund) Managing Director. Their participation has been rising in almost every sector whether health, sports, media, politics, traditional business or agricultural activities. Their literacy rates have been increasing rapidly in some places; gender gap in education has been shrinking worldwide and their number in elected offices is increasing – a good omen for the development of any country.

However, despite these notable advances, gender disparities still persist. The global economy can never reach its potential while the talent of half of its population remains underappreciated. The tremendous potential economic contribution from women remains untapped in a number of countries. Despite progress in closing gender gap pertaining to education, literacy rates are still lower for women especially in South and North Africa, Middle East and South Asian countries such as Pakistan. Sindh and Balochistan manifest abysmal status of women education.

Similarly, lack of basic rights, gender gap in access to social and financial services, all have implications for women’s economic prosperity. IMF report on Pursuing Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) demonstrates that Poor growth in GDP manifests huge gender gap whereas closing gender gap uplifts growth. The analysis of world economic data of the past 30 years also highlights that rate of progress is higher in countries where women’s contribution in GDP is higher. In this regard, South Korea, Vietnam and China are the prominent examples. According to Christine Ligarde, closing gender gap in Japan could boost GDP by 9%, India by 27% and by 30% in Pakistan. Therefore, gender equality is the herald of development in any civilized society.

Through gender equality, living standard of the nation improves and circulation of money increases as shown in Turkey under leadership of Kamal Ataturk, China and Singapore.

In addition, World Bank elucidates that the economy of the country can never reach its potential where talent of its women remains untapped. For instance, it is shown that if African countries had closed the gender gap in schooling as quickly as East Asia did, this would have produced close to a doubling of per-capita income growth in the region and health implications. According to the women leader of Arab world Tawakkol Karman, human civilization is the fruit of the effort of both women and men. Hence, when women are treated unjustly and are deprived of their natural right, all social deficiencies and cultural illnesses will be unfolded, and in the end the whole community, men and women, will suffer.

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It is pertinent to mention here that women participation promulgates democratic culture and improvement in the provision of fundamental rights to masses. When it comes to Pakistan, there is no denying the fact that women participation manifested improvement over the years. The ruling party PTI is the first political party that established women’s wing and encouraged women participation. Their participation in such a large number in anti-government movement is unprecedented in Pakistan’s history according to American political magazine. Similarly, re-election in NA-10 (Shangla) and NA-48 (North Waziristan) where women votes were less than 10 percent of the total polled votes is the ray of hope in closing gender gap. History reflects that women involvement in politics has always played a great role since independence in the form of Fatimah Jinnah, Begum Raana Liaquat, Begum M. Ali Johar, Bi Amman, Begum Jahan Shah Nawaz and many more.

On the other hand, Human Development Index (HDI) of the nation improves due to gender equality but Pakistan manifests gloomy image as inequality illustrates Pakistan in HDI at number 150 in 2018. According to political analyst, Dr Farrukh Saleem, health, education and income are the main components of HDI. In health, Pakistan is the riskiest country for newborns in the world – 55 deaths /1000 births. Almost over 22 million out of school children, second to Nigeria in the world, reported by many national organizations and incumbent Pakistani premier in his first address to nation. Hence, there is a dire need to take effective measures to empower females in all areas of life. In recent times, BISP (Benazir Income Support Program) has certainly improved women lives to some extent but simultaneously it has not enhanced their say in family affairs. Similarly, KP education system manifested significant improvement pertaining to girl’s education as per Alif Ailan and Pakistan Economic Survey 2018 but there is much to address.

Without an iota of doubt, educated Women play pivotal role to stop unsustainable population growth according to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The logic is that educated healthy women are more able to engage in productive activities and they are also more likely to have fewer children because rampant population can become security threat for the country.

PEW research reports highlighted that there are over 48 countries that hold religious restrictions. Religion is often seen as a barrier to gender parity. Unless there is religious freedom, minority groups, including women, creative voices will not be heard and economy would continue to suffer.

There are some daunting and formidable challenges in the way such as religious extremism holds women back – barrier to gender parity as reported by UN Human Right Commission. Extremist ideologies such as ISIS represent the complete loss of religious freedom. Similarly, violent extremism has adversely affected women’s mobility in tribal areas of KP and Balochistan provinces. This affected not only women’s access to healthcare facilities in the region but also household incomes.

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PEW research reports highlighted that there are over 48 countries that hold religious restrictions. Religion is often seen as a barrier to gender parity. Unless there is religious freedom, minority groups, including women, creative voices will not be heard and economy would continue to suffer.

Furthermore, religious taboos and socio-cultural barriers are insurmountable challenge in the way of development. Most of the women are bound to domestic chores and are not allowed to take major decisions. Early marriages, restrictions in getting education, inability to access justice, discrimination pertaining to family, property, citizenship and employment are amongst key barricades towards economic growth.

To address the imbalanced development and existing gaps, implementation of constitutional rights in true spirit should be enforced. As Article 25 (1) (2) (3), 32, 34 and 18th amendment entail equality, protection, discourage discrimination, promote women participation in legislation and other affairs of states. Likewise, it’s a fact that world has witnessed remarkable achievement in closing gender gap through Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are still alive as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 5 promulgates equality and women empowerment and all the 17 goals depend on the achievement of Goal 5.

Moreover, inculcate Islamic teachings in universities to manifest the importance of women in order to harness productive outcomes. Islam empowers women in the personal, social, economic and political spheres of life. Islam does not differentiate between the rights of a man and a woman but suggests a certain balance between them to maintain an equilibrium in family and society.

Quaid -e-Azam rightly said that “No nation could rise to the height of glory, unless your women are side by side with you. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut-up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners”.

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