Women rights organisations and activists on Monday hailed the Sindh government’s decision to increase the job quota for women in the government sector from five to 25 percent in the annual budget 2012-13 presented in the provincial assembly here.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “Ideally, I believe in a level playing field, but in a country like Pakistan where educational opportunities for women are limited, such measures help balance out the inequality, even if in a small way.”
But some thought such measures were a mere distraction from major issues faced by Pakistani women. “It’s a patriarchal society we live in. When you offer a quota for a certain section of society, you accept that they are marginalised,” said Mahnaz Rahman, resident director of Aurat Foundation.
“Women make up more than 50 percent of the country’s population, and yet the social mores restrict them in every way to move forward. We cannot take our eyes off these issues. Although I welcome such a step, but more has to be done,” she said.
“I am against quotas. With 50 percent women population, they deserve more socially extrovert roles. But that doesn’t happen in this country,” said Sarah Zaman, director of the War Against Rape (WAR).
Zaman was of the view that despite the quota, women in the government bureaucracy were usually “lost” in the mire of the patriarchal governmental structure as they did not exactly have a vision.
“In the Pakistani bureaucracy, which is predominantly male, the women are usually backed by men and sadly many are not appointed on the basis of merit, which does not help the cause of women in any way.”
But Semeen Yusuf Siddiqui, chairperson of the Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Developing Company, said that job quotas were essential for the betterment of women in a country like Pakistan.
“We have to understand that the deeper social issues like attitude towards women will take time to go away. But such a measure from the government shows that the government is all for the social and economic welfare of women and this is exactly the kind of message we need to send in these trying times.”