The 21st century has borne witness to some great developments in terms of amending cultural and structural violence based on past societal norms.
Many nations have amended their policies and reformed them to serve the purpose of inclusivity and to promote diversity within their communities.
Perhaps the most vivid of these battles against engraved discriminations and inequalities has been for the rights and empowerment of women.
In the Pakistani context, women make up almost half of the population and according to a World Economic Forum report, only one-quarter of women participate in the labour force i.e. working or looking to work compared with 85% of men present in the country.
This leaves almost half of Pakistan’s potential unexplored. Unfortunately, this situation was further exacerbated during the pandemic.
As a lockdown ensued during the pandemic, economies the world over were hit severely. The brunt of this was shouldered by developing nations, much like in the case of Pakistan and as employment opportunities decreased substantially, job security for women and their financial standing was affected drastically.
As most of the female workforce of Pakistan falls under the category of home-based workers or those working in the informal sector, the participation of women in the wider economy lacks severely, due to which women are affected by job insecurity.
Facebook partnered with several institutions to study gender equality at home and work during COVID-19 with inputs from the World Bank Group, UN Women, Ladysmith Collective, and EqualMeasures2030.
More than 460,000 people on Facebook in over 200 countries completed the survey, which resulted in a first-of-its-kind snapshot of women and men’s access to resources, their time spent on unpaid care work, and their attitudes about equality.
These insights give us both reason to be concerned and reason to hope. There are several flags; 29% of the female respondents expressed that the future of their work was a primary source of concern; whereas, 80% of the women compared to the 65% male respondents had limited or no personal access to household money.
The latter of the two results quoted, showed a wide disparity between the female and male respondents, indicating the plight of women and the poor economic situation they faced at homes due to the pandemic.
Also, the survey showed that 80% agreed that men and women should have equal opportunities to education, employment, and household decision-making; this included 83% of female respondents compared to the 76% of male respondents.
A silver lining in the results suggested that Digital Fluency allowed unemployed women to establish an online business.
As women were able to work from home and set working hours that matched their respective schedules, it meant that many more women could join the workforce and attain a sustainable livelihood for themselves.
Although, this was a crucial discovery, results of the survey indicated that female respondents did not own the devices with which they answered the survey questions and therefore this lack of availability of accurate resources served as a major hurdle in women achieving their goals as entrepreneurs running their businesses online.
Nevertheless, these trends in the results indicated the scope of a society to pursue inclusivity and diversity.
It also presented nations and all organizations, businesses with an urgency to re-think strategies for the financial incorporation of women in the workforce.
This is why Facebook created #SheMeansBusiness in 2016 – a long-term commitment to support women’s economic empowerment by providing digital skills training and avenues to deepen and expand their business connections and networks.
For any state to move towards a path of economic and societal stability, it is necessary for all segments of the society to participate equally and fully.
In the case of Pakistan, its road to a secure future is greatly dependent on the financial empowerment of women.
(The writer is Founder & CEO – Femprow, Founder –Sheops)