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Wednesday June 12, 2024

An unequal world

By Dr Zia Ullah Ranjah
July 16, 2022

The Global Gender Gap Report 2022 issued by the World Economic Forum ranks Pakistan 145 out of 146 countries. Pakistan is only behind Afghanistan, which has closed 43.5 per cent of its gender gap. This calls for the immediate attention of our policymakers who should take timely steps to improve the country’s ranking.

The report looks at countries’ performance in closing gender-based gaps in four critical areas: Education Attainment; Health and Survival; Economic Participation and Opportunity; and Political Empowerment.

In Education Attainment, with a score of 0.825, Pakistan stands at the 135th position. In Health and Survival, it has performed better than China (0.940) and India (0.937) and scored 0.944 – standing at the 143rd position. In Economic Participation, it has scored 0.331 and is a notch above Afghanistan (0.176). It has shown good performance in Political Empowerment and secured the 95th position. Besides Afghanistan and Pakistan, the other countries on the list of the five worst countries in terms of gender parity are Congo, Iran and Chad.

South Asia is the lowest-ranking region and has closed 62.3 per cent of the gender gap. It has the lowest regional gender parity scores in Health and Survival and Economic Participation at 94.2 per cent and 35.7 per cent respectively, and the second lowest in Education Attainment at 93.2 per cent. It has the fourth highest gender parity score in Political Empowerment at 26.2 per cent. According to the report, South Asia will need more than 197 years to reach gender parity – likely to achieve in the year 2219.

The report states that the vast difference between the career trajectory of men and women is due to two factors: transitioning to their first managerial role and internal promotion. It also adds that gender gaps in leadership roles are getting wider – women make up half of the entry-level roles, about a third of managerial roles, and only a quarter of senior leadership positions.

Unequal access to wealth-building resources contributes to the widening wealth divide. Women are in a disadvantageous position in terms of wealth accumulation. The gender wealth gap has been calculated to be 11 per cent. The gap keeps widening; for technical and professional roles, it has reached 31 per cent. It further expands to 38 per cent for senior expert and leadership roles.

The political empowerment subindex remains the worst-performing area throughout the world. The report suggests that at the current pace, it will take around 155 years to bridge the gender gap in this critical area.

Pakistan has a population of 107 million women and is the second-worst country in terms of gender parity. Thus, our policymakers need to address the factors that are deepening the existing gender gap. Women should be given leadership roles in the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. This will help reduce the gender gap while strengthening our institutions with women’s potential and perspective. The assumption that women are weak and cannot perform in administrative positions lacks logic and scientific backing. Women deserve leadership roles in all organizations based on merit as this step will help promote good governance and strengthen Pakistan.

Women constitute almost 50 per cent of Pakistan’s total population. Denying equal economic opportunities to them will weaken our economy. Economic inclusion will boost their confidence and bring diversity and fresh perspective to the national economy.

The report has also concluded that the number of women-owned unicorns has increased five-fold from 18 in 2020 to 83 in 2021. This shows that given economic opportunities, women can perform equally well in business. However, dollar investment in women-owned businesses is still significantly less than those led by men. Bringing women on board will help Pakistan become economically strong, reducing its dependence on foreign financial assistance and aid. How can a nation make economic progress by excluding half of its population from the economic sphere?

Also, political participation is a must for women’s empowerment. Increasing women’s access to parliament will strengthen democracy and allow women to share their opinions in decision-making. Without women’s perspectives, our laws and policies will remain flawed. How can law or policy be effective without the voice of 50 per cent of the population of a country? Thus, women should have a strong role and authority in national policies, laws, rules and regulations. It will make the process of legislation inclusive, making laws more effective.

If we want to make Pakistan stronger, we must address the issue of gender disparity. It begins with creating equal opportunities for women in all spheres of life and changing the mindset of our society. Structural and institutional changes must be made to bring substantive gender equality. Gender-responsive policies need to be introduced at all levels of governance.

A ‘gendered’ perspective should be promoted through the media. Gender awareness can also be created through conferences, seminars and workshops. Special courses to develop the nuances of a ‘gendered’ perspective must be offered at each level of education. The judiciary needs to protect people’s fundamental right to equality more effectively. Otherwise, Pakistan may go further down in global gender gap indicators.

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.