Women Empowerment: A Long Way to Go

Azhar Saeed Hashmi

In 1944, Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah said in a speech,
“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners.”
The role of women in social, cultural, economic development can’t be denied. Participation of women is in cultural and economic activities are requisite for country’s progress. Govt. of Pakistan is trying very hard to minimize the unfairness between men and women according to United Nations Millennium development goals and directions. Now women are participating in every sphere of life. But still gender equality is far behind from the ideal situation but we should acknowledge the efforts of govt. regarding women empowerment.
Pakistan is a patriarchal society where men are dominated in every field. In past woman was confined to specific profession like medical and teaching but due to the media awareness and govt. efforts situation is getting better with the passage of time. Now women are in armed forces, bomb disposal squads, pilots and those professions which were purely considered for men only.
According to the latest statistics, the current female population in Pakistan is 49.2 % whereas women participation in labor force is only 28%. Clearly, this ratio is extremely low. Women empowerment can play marvelous role in the economic development of Pakistan and that’s not possible without women employment. Today’s women are educated, confident and willing to work. Just a slight motivation, support and resources can make them do wonders. It’s time to recognize that enhanced women participation in modern society is mandatory in order to ensure prosperous economy.
Pakistan had elected the first woman Prime Minister of Muslim world. During her election campaigns in 1988, Benazir Bhutto voiced concerns over social issues of women, health and discrimination against women. She announced different plans to set up women’s police stations, courts and women’s development banks. She also promised to repeal controversial Hudood laws that curtailed the rights of women. However, during her two incomplete terms in office (1988-90 and 1993-96), Benazir Bhutto did not propose any legislation to improve social status of Pakistani women. That is the real issue of Pakistani women, we elected her our Prime Minister but our patriarchal could not gave the right of decision making to her.
Now we can see women in every field but that is not women empowerment. Still the role of women in decision making is very stumpy. There is slightest number of women on key positions especially in private sector. We as a nation are men dominated society and we didn’t want to give empowerment to women regarding decision making. Giving jobs, admissions, electing women as Member of Provincial and National Assembly is not women empowerment at all. Women empowerment is something else that can be achieved only through by giving them decision making powers.
This is not only the problem of Pakistani women. In west women are also suffering even the champion of women rights and freedom United States of America could not elect a woman as their president. Present govt. of Pakistan has done some work regarding filling gap between men and women but the basic problems lies in our minds because we are reluctant to give their due rights especially decision making powers. Unfortunately still we are relying on quota system for women regarding jobs. We should acknowledge that women are not less capable than men. There should be merit system. The modern world has discarded the quota system.
Government can’t only empower women. Women can only empower by changing the mindset and giving them the key positions where they display their decision making powers. Honor Killing has emerged as biggest threat to the soft image of Pakistan. This menace of honor killing is overlapping the efforts of government related to women empowerment. The ranking of Pakistan about women empowerment is very low according to UN reports. Government and UNO efforts for women empowerment can’t be fruitful unless we change our mindset and stereotypes about women. Modern day can play very important role in changing the mindsets and stereotypes of society about women.