A strong measure of Pakistan’s regression over the last decade or so, despite the advent of some, though limited, infrastructure development, is the World Economic Forum’s recently released Global Gender Gap Report 2016 in which Pakistan ranks second to last. Sprinkle on this the daily recurrent stories of injustice against women and we see the country is not moving forward with regards to equity and equality for women. Trouble-ridden Yemen ranks last at 144, while war-torn Syria ranks one spot higher. Adding insult to injury, Pakistan’s ranking in this report has consistently become worse, and now, we have hit rock bottom.
Despite the supposedly respectful treatment women are afforded in public, such as separate lines and priority service at public offices, statistics such as these elucidate that women are not empowered in Pakistan. Reflecting on the four pillars in the report, Pakistan fell three spots in the rankings on political empowerment to 87. Even if a woman attempts to climb the career ladder, she is greeted with words of discouragement and harassment.
However, the gender gap in this country is not only to be blamed on lawmakers and enforcers. It is a mentality that paralyses women. It is the same mentality that stops a mother from allowing her daughter to pursue education abroad, or stops adults from supporting their daughter-in-law’s higher education, only to say that once a woman is married, her educational ambitions must be killed. There is a great opportunity for all stakeholders to push parents towards granting the same rights to their daughters as they do to their sons. Let them consider the finding that women engagement in economics and other areas of public life is correlated with a higher GDP as well as the body of research that says children with working mothers are more likely to attain employment and earn higher salaries.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2016.
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