Women’s empowerment & their role in socio-economic development
SOCIAL change means the alteration of mechanisms within the social structure, characterized by changes in cultural symbols, rules of behaviour, social organizations, or value system.
Simply, it is the study of shifts in attitudes and behaviour that characterize a society. Without a doubt, society develops through evolutionary process.
Therefore, a clear change in the socio-economic structure of society is visible. Such societal changes are also a result of specific social movements, such as the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage and movements for women’s empowerment.
Cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technical elements can also influence such social transformation.
Women’s empowerment has always been a contentious topic in developing nations like Pakistan because of the complicated cultural and socio-demographic environment.
Overall major indicators of human development of women have been considered lower rather than men.
Although Pakistan has taken some significant steps toward empowering women but their situation is still dire, particularly in rural regions.
Women’s empowerment is a valuable instrument in developing nations like Pakistan for lifting millions of people out of the cycle of poverty, lowering mortality rate, decreasing dependency burdens and promoting long-term sustained development of the world.
Women’s engagement is crucial for bringing about a lasting change which benefits everyone, not just the women themselves.
Women and girls make up an unreasonably large proportion of poor countries and are more likely to be hit by hunger, violence, disasters and climate change.
Additionally, the majority of women in developing countries frequently lack legal rights and basic necessities of life when compared to men.
Numerous recent studies conducted around the world show that women’s empowerment is crucial for a nation to maintain sustainable economic progress.
The empowerment of women is also a crucial component of gender equality. The relationship between economic growth and female empowerment is two-fold and is defined as increasing women’s access to health, education and employment opportunities as well as their rights and political engagement in general.
In order to reduce gender inequality, economic development can make a big contribution. Education access, adequate job opportunities and media information approaches are considered more appropriate and feasible measures for adequate women empowerment and health-care access.
Emergency-based State-based policy measures must be implemented, such as providing women with access to education right outside their homes, increasing the number of jobs that give women priority and ensuring that they have proper media access to raise awareness of their legal rights and important social contribution.
Pakistan’s inability to sustain gender equality and its failure to take into account the thoughts and viewpoints of roughly half of the population prevent it from having the opportunity it needs to foster economic progress.
If the participation rate of women in the workforce is equal to that of men, it is predicted that Pakistan’s GDP will increase by nearly one-third, according to IMF research.
Significantly increasing the participation of women in economic activities, will significantly aid the country’s goal of inclusive development and sustainable economic growth.
South Punjab is regarded as a backward Punjab zone in which women are unfavourable. In South Punjab, women’s empowerment is substantially diminished due to patriarchal factors.
So, in such circumstances, education is one of the best solutions which would enable women to contribute to the socio-economic development of the region in a better way.
It is the need of time to provide girls of South Punjab with easily accessible educational opportunities, especially in the paradigm of higher education.
In such prevailing conditions, the role of universities became important because such institutions can provide special facilities for girls’ education.
Introduction of special scholarships, availability of transport and allocation of special seats are the steps to motivate the girls’ students for higher education.
Numerous NGOs and universities are working to make higher education of women easier, where KFUEIT takes the lead by motivating women to take admission in engineering which is considered an “unorthodox” field for women in our country.
The Vice-Chancellor Dr M Suleman Tahir has offered hundred-percent scholarships and incentives to women to prompt them to pursue higher education by facilitating them in every possible way, hoping it would bring a change in society.
It would bring a positive change and would empower the women in South Punjab. No doubt, the implementation of such policies is gradually changing the social and economic interface of the region.
It will take some time to observe the candid impact of such policies. We hope to see similar initiatives that help break the stereotypes in South Punjab and bring a change in people’s attitude towards women education. Even the smallest steps in the right direction matter, and should be acknowledged.
—The writer is an academic researcher and youth leader, based in Islamabad.