Save the Children recently published a ranking of 144 countries on the Girls’ Opportunity Index, which factored several categories in order to assign rank for which countries are the best for girls to thrive in. Indicators for the rankings included: child marriage, adolescent pregnancy, maternal mortality, women in parliament, and lower-secondary school completion for girls. At the top of the list sat Sweden and Finland, respectively. At the bottom was Niger. And, nestled somewhere in between the other countries was Pakistan at spot number 88. An overarching theme in compiling these figures was to explore the level of control girls have in their lives and the opportunities to reach their full potentials, across socio-economic groups. Although Pakistan’s ranking this time is not as abhorrent as its rankings on other surveys, spot number 88 leaves much to be desired in the way of empowering women in our country through equality and equity.
Much of women’s disempowerment comes via child marriage and poor sexual and reproductive health services, both of which we are familiar with here in the motherland. Pakistan has consistently ranked low when it comes to maternal and neonatal health, especially with regard to mortality figures. In the public sphere, there have been several calls from time to time for the Government of Pakistan and the international community to awaken to the low status of women — one of the more prominent campaigns in recent times has been by Malala Yousufzai. However, this has hardly mobilised the Pakistani government into action to introduce equitable practices in the public arena to facilitate women. The suggestions for governments in the way of guarantees communicated in the report serve as fitting starting points; it recommends fair finance, equal treatment, and accountability for governments. Our government must also realise that women’s untapped talent means the country is missing out on potentially higher GDP.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2016.
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