Mind the gap
“No nation can be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men”—Muhammad Ali Jinnah
THE dream that was conceived as an idea became a reality 75 years ago when Pakistan was born as a sovereign independent state.
Our forefathers entrusted us with building Pakistan into a great nation, a country where justice shall reign supreme and human rights be accessible as birthrights to all.
Being fifth largest country in terms of population growth, we’re surely growing magnanimously, but unfortunately quite clueless. Massive population of around 230 million comprises 51.46% male and 48.54% female population approximately. Apparently this appears as a minor gap of statistics but actual, and in fact major, gap lies in equality of representation between both genders.
Gender gap or disparity is the difference in representation of men and women in a society’s social, cultural, economical, legal, educational and political domains.
The entire world has faced this challenge since the beginning of time but many countries have made conscious efforts and contributions in bridging the gender gap, whereas here, i.e. in Pakistan, we went from bad to worse and this gap has further widened over the years.
It’s disheartening to read the recent reports by World Economic Forum on Global Gender Gap which places Pakistan in the 2nd last position; 145thamongst 146 countries in gender equality. So when and where did we go wrong?
We have multiple factors responsible for the gap and disparity with prioritizing education being the first and the foremost one.
Fate of women in our society is usually predetermined and planned by their families, especially the men of the house.
It was no surprise to learn that our female workforce is disappointingly low as only 25% of women, approximately, with university degrees, carry on to pursue their careers and work for the society.
Demographic disparity (urban vs. rural) also plays a major part as women of our rural areas are mostly confined to working in fields or staying at home. They barely have access to health facilities and are seldom involved in any decision-making; education is not even on the priority list for them.
Urban women, after completing their studies, usually don’t pursue their careers mainly because of the social responsibilities entrusted upon them by the society.
Wage or remuneration gap is another demotivating factor that’s affecting our gender gap as women in Pakistan are reportedly paid 34% less wages as compared to their male counterparts with the same degree of qualification and experience.
In addition to this, another survey revealed that women are not encouraged to step out of their homes because of the increase in crime rate and inadequate transport facilities; that are nightmare for public transport users especially if you’re a woman.
In short, lack of education, cultural attitudes, economic inequalities and deprivation of equal opportunities & human rights for women are responsible for where we stand today. Hope is not all lost but the statistics are grim and worrisome.
Some multinationals have come forward to address this issue by increasing the hiring opportunities for women workforce in their offices like a telecom company which has designated all women only customer care centres.
A leading transport company inducted women to their fleet of “captains” also many banks and FMCGs are now holding a certain percentage of female employees and board members after SECP made it mandatory for the companies.
The Pakistan Armed Forces, be it Army, Air Force or Navy, have encouraged and have witnessed an increase in the recruitment of women in almost all their branches and across all functions.
It took us 75 years to reach here, let’s hope it doesn’t take another 75 years for our policy makers to realize the power of inclusion of women and the importance of involving them in decision making.
The solution to bridging this gender gap is a long but not a hopeless journey. Education, most importantly, should be made compulsory for at least 16 years for all citizens by the government. Safe and healthy environment at workplaces, in transport and educational institutes should be ensured.
This can be achieved when criminal laws are tightened, and strictly implemented, against harassment and other injustices against women. Additionally, access to speedy justice to be ensured to masses; with special focus on affordability for all women. Lastly the policy makers need to implement equal wages for all genders meriting their qualifications and experience.
Result: Empower your woman and she’ll empower the nation. Gender equality in providing equal opportunities to all sexes is the key component to development and progress of any country and this can be achieved when men and women are offered equal rights and obligation in a society in every walk of life.
“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the Women” —Muhammad Ali Jinnah
—The writer, Accountant by qualification and a travel influencer by choice, is a freelance columnist and an award winning filmmaker, based in Karachi.