Women form 49.7 per cent of the population of the world. The percentage, with slight variations, has been almost similar throughout history. Ironically, in our journey from the Stone Age to the era of artificial intelligence, this half population remained denied commensurate knowledge, skill and responsibilities.
The word empowerment connotes the presence of a competent body giving out authority through social norms and laws. Pakistan recognized the deficit of rights for women and developed legal and executive measures to combat that.
As equal citizens of Pakistan, women are free to contest general elections and also avail the seats reserved for them. We had only three women in our first National Assembly (1947-54), 6-8 women till 1999 and 70-76 members (elected and reserved) from 2002 to date. Similar representation is found in the Senate.
There are no limits on women holding public office in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto rose to the position of PM, while several others continue working as ministers and heads of institutions. The contribution of women has been appreciable and inspired the coming generations.
Women always contributed towards the economy but their labour was not properly evaluated. In rural areas, about 70 per cent of the country, women worked in the fields and looked after the cattle, thereby substantially supporting these two major sources of field economy. The use of modern agriculture equipment and techniques relieved a large number of this class of women from labour in the fields. They have consequently diverted their attention towards education. One can see a significant change in rural areas over the past two decades.
In most competitive exams, girls and women have proved to be more focused and successful. When put to practical life, their performance in the bureaucracy, and the health and education sectors is particularly noteworthy. Women have shown a lot of vision in the corporate sector as well and have proved themselves to be leading entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Young women have also joined the armed forces and demonstrated their worth in the uniform, forming a formidable segment of our valiant armed forces.
Women’s empowerment in Pakistan is facilitated by state laws. Our progress in this can be seen in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap reports which indicate that our gender gap in educational attainment has significantly decreased with more girls enrolling in schools and pursuing higher education. This forms the basis for women managing to contribute to all fields of life.
We have in place systems to provide financial assistance to vulnerable women, opportunities to the struggling, and guidance to those looking for a path to progress. These systems include skill development programmes and microfinance initiatives.
The writer is a freelance writer and TV anchor.
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