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July 29, 2020

Women of the future

Editorial

July 29, 2020

Pakistan is a country where the population is primarily made up of young people. But when so many of these young people are not empowered, it is difficult to imagine a future which will enable them to play a useful and productive role. One of the first studies on the empowerment of young women in Pakistan, released virtually by UN Women and the National Commission on the Status of Women, on Monday with the support of its partners, noted that the majority of young women aged 15-24 years do not have access to education, employment or decision-making on various issues. Even adult women, aged over 18 years, are frequently controlled by families and by the men who dominate them.

According to the report, 48 percent of young women are not in any kind of education or employment compared to 7 percent of men in the same age group. Less than two percent own any assets, with only three percent owning agricultural land. This is a result of the manner in which laws are applied and distortions made in the handling of property matters to deprive women of what should be their right. The research study also notes that only 24 percent of young women make decisions about their education and employment, and in an even smaller percentage about their marriage. In most cases, these matters are controlled by families. Only 9 percent of women who had been married said they had a say over how to use their earnings while an enormous percentage of 44 percent saw no harm in physical abuse against women.

The research points to extremely significant realities in our society. It highlights how little freedom most young women have to determine the direction or nature of their lives. The lack of finances and a say in future matters that impact daily living indicate the extent to which Pakistan remains a strictly patriarchal society bound in tradition despite the claims by our leaders that they are eager to push it towards progress and development. Women in Bangladesh for instance have been found to be empowered to a far greater extent with higher levels of education and a greater say in making decisions concerning their own lives. Just imagine reversing the situation. How would young men feel if they were allowed neither to study nor to work, and have very little control over earnings or over decisions such as their own marriages. Quite obviously, this would be unacceptable to many of these men. It is then obvious that the differentiation based on gender is a huge one in our country and that we cannot hope to harness the full potential of our youth until this is reduced.