Pakistan is in a dismal state as far as women’s empowerment goals are concerned. Lockdowns and a global economic downfall have created further disruption. Severe budgetary cuts may end up crippling several programs which had been vested for the future.
Emerging economies globally will feel the pinch, especially South Asian ones, where crippling laws and social norms had shackled women’s empowerment much before the global pandemic occurred. Can such countries move to close the gender gap inequalities by setting up bare minimum demands?
A good slogan for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is #ChoosetoChallenge. However, in the face of all this, it must be imperative to note that both men and women must accept the ‘challenge’ in itself to progress – together.
Read more: March 8 International Women’s Day
Women empowerment in history
Somewhere along the trajectory, the vision of our founding fathers to take women along has been lost. The idea was intact when the women before independence organized their marches and social movements to form Pakistan.
Today, it becomes more a scenario of men and women being pitted against each other. Derision and political tactics are being used rather than the actual essence or consideration for economic uplift.
Women’s empowerment means reshaping the cultural, family or societal values which help advance women’s rights. We need to break out of man-made shackles that hinder us. Several Islamic laws have been grossly mistranslated and misunderstood at points and inculcated into the culture.
1400 years ago, women in the Arabian Peninsula rode camels into battlegrounds. They independently-owned businesses. Khadija, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was a businesswoman who conducted trade.
After the advent of Islam, women were granted legal, financial and economic rights. They had divorce laws as well as laws of inheritance already in place. This was at a time when there was no talk of such for the western world – not until the last century. So yes, we have lost a lot on the way.
Addressing the gap
South Asian culture, in general, is intensely immersed in tradition, culture, and all things beautiful. Yet, there are pockets that remain enveloped in radicalization. There remains a need to hold onto our identity, confused by that feeling that modernization will remove all this.
A parallel threat also comes in the form of those who hijack the conversation about empowerment, jumping onto the bandwagon suddenly as it’s ‘trending’, while not having to show anything concrete in the form of policies, strategies or actionable plans.
This mixed messaging has caused a more significant divide in the thought processes rather than gear people up as a collective effort for advancement.
In all of this, we must support the International Women’s Day (IWD) March. Women marchers are within their rights to march peacefully. Whatever their views – let them have this platform.
The nation should stand together in supporting women’s initiatives for socio-economic empowerment. The state must devise an integrative and collective approach to the dialogue which is missing between the different factions of society.
It is the time one looks into this carefully as well. To ignore the havoc-creating religious blocs trying to take us to pre-Islamic times is unwise.
How to empower women?
A few critical factors for our women to be empowered is accessibility to education, equal pay, work and mobility. One repressive act has been the deprivation of primary quality education for women and the girl-child to step out of their social systems. The system must be amended to enforce that children are not seen as labourers or in the workforce here but going to school as the states’ responsibility.
Here even, better income households repress their female children from attaining quality education in the higher levels as girls are married off at a young age. It is these imposed cultural derisions that must be challenged at every level.
One can only imagine the input when half of the nation’s population is mobilized (be it by digital inclusion or only by quality education) and enabled to work. Those are all good challenges to think of in terms of empowerment. In questioning the status quo, will come to the change which is warranted and much needed.
The angst and frustration stemming from unequipped cities, lack of education to frameworks of bureaucracy and cultural shackles are being felt and spoken against, now more than ever. Policymakers should now focus on creating the framework for economic empowerment and uplift.
World leaders have already recognized that cultures that manage gender diversity and push for gender inclusion have proven to be more successful as far as productivity and revenues are concerned.
Simply creating the economic opportunity and a conducive environment for women to excel in, will be the win-win situation needed for any emerging nation. We must choose to challenge those who openly fail to provide these basic human necessities.
The writer is known for articles addressing cultural impact. The ideas expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.