Global Gender Gap Report 2021 and Pakistan
We have witnessed an increased presence of women in almost every field of life; from politics to sports; from education to civil services of Pakistan, and so on. Gender quotas in politics and civil services have helped many a women to come to the mainstream. The government has also taken various steps for the empowerment of women. However, the growing gender disparity is reflective of the fact that the government initiatives are empowering the already-empowered and well-placed women, leaving the majority of women, particularly those living in the rural areas, at the mercy of the fate.
Women-empowerment initiatives are highly exclusive in nature. Take, for example, the case of women quotas in politics. Paradoxically, gender quotas are further deepening the exclusivity of the political institution instead of making them inclusive. Beneficiaries of gender quotas are women of the political elite and the genuine political workers are ignored. For majority of women in the country, politics is still a no-go area. Resultantly national, regional and specific needs of the community are defined without seeking meaningful contribution from the women at large. How can the gender-sensitive policies be crafted when there is no genuine representation of women in the parliament?
There are glaring patterns of inequality between women and men in our society; for example, women are more vulnerable and tend to suffer violence at the hands of their intimate partners more often than men. Women lag behind men when it comes to political participation and representation in the decision-making bodies. Women and men have different economic opportunities. Women and girls constitute majority of the people being trafficked and involved in sex trade. These issues, among others, continue to hinder development of women and society on the whole.
Women in villages make an important contribution to food and other agriculture production. Working women in both rural and urban areas are doing the same by adding to their family income. These tasks add to women’s workload and are an obstacle to their engagement in political and social activities. This contribution by women often goes unnoticed. They are not even encouraged; not to speak of reward for those working unpaid. Government must come up with policies to encourage and facilitate women so that they can play the above-mentioned roles along with taking active part in social and political activities.
Gender inequalities are not confined to economic and political spheres but are reflected in almost every area of life and often in ways that are difficult to measure. The discriminatory behaviour women have to face is often grounded in gender stereotypes and patriarchal nature of society. These ideas and practices further complicate gender inequalities.
Achieving greater equality between women and men require changes at many levels including changes in attitudes and relationships, changes in institutions and legal frameworks, changes in economic institutions, and changes in political decision-making structures. Without bringing these changes, plight of women cannot be changed and they will be suffering, like ever, unheard and unseen.
Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. Earlier, Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all the forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1996. Two decades down the road, CEDAW has not been implemented, and it shows our commitment to international conventions and covenants. Keeping in view the gender inequality prevalent in our country, it is not difficult to ascertain as to why we lag behind other nations in terms of socioeconomic development.
For achieving gender equality and socio-economic development, it is important to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of societal development. Sustainable development is possible only when gender perspectives are identified and addressed. If we are interested in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals priority should be given to gender equality as an important means for attaining them.
The writer is a Chevening Scholar and studied International Development at the University of Manchester.