“ No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.“
— Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had a strong understanding about the true potential of Pakistani women for national development. He once said, “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.” It is a universally recognized truth that nations that were able to recognize the potential of their female work force have made distinct and significant advances in all fields and those that have not been able to identify their true potential, thus restricting them from getting involved in remunerative economic activity, lagged in socio-economic progress and development because employment of women contributes directly to the society.
Today, Pakistani women understand that there is no exception to making the reality of socio-economic growth come true but it is imperative that the society provide ample prospects at social, political, domestic and economic levels. It is a crucial time in the history of the country when it can use the potential of the female work force as it faces escalating financial instability. It suffers through corruption, internal and external security challenges, inflation, unemployment and poverty alleviation, with a dire need of improvement in the quality of education and economic conditions. The foreign currency reserves have declined and budget deficit has grown. Pakistan needs to take measures and understand the true potential of its women in order to make them an agent of change.
Women have always played a crucial role in serving Pakistan in every sphere of life: as homemakers who provide care, support and encouragement, as well as professionals. Yet, they need more opportunities and freedom to play a greater role in boosting the socio-economic development of the country.
With the increase in education, faster growth in female employment is observed in all sectors of the economy and the improved working environment over the past couple of years, today women are contributing as doctors, engineers, IT specialist, professors, entrepreneurs and journalists.
Women in Pakistan make up almost half of the population and represent a huge chunk of the labor force, but Pakistan has yet to realize the true potential of its female human capital for its development. Women have the potential to add to the progress and development of our great nation, but unfortunately this has not been fully tapped in to due to under-representation of women at almost every level of the economic sphere. In the fast paced world of today, where cost of living is sky high, women need to participate economically for not only the welfare of the country but also for their families.
Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of female participation in economy in the world. Structural, institutional and socio-cultural barriers along with restricted access to capital are the impediments, which limit access to information, skill development, potential platforms to promote women-owned businesses and put women at a distinct disadvantage.
According to the Global Gender Gap Index, which shows the gap between men and women based on various socio-economic indicators, Pakistan was ranked 143 out of 144 countries in 2017. Pay inequity is one of the major reasons for this gap. It is estimated that women in rural areas spend an average 14 to 16 hours working in fields due to poverty induced phenomenon and yet they are financially dependent on their husbands, sons, brothers or fathers. The strong domination of the patriarchal system in the country is evident because of the missing opportunities for women where a majority of female doctors, engineers, business graduates, etc., usually remain unemployed after getting married due to certain cultural barriers.
We have seen growth in recent years as more and more Pakistani women pursue careers because of improvement in literacy and education, but the sad truth is that they are restricted to very few choices due to inadequate recognition, lack of mobility and different viewpoints about the social status of working women in Pakistan.
With the increase in education, faster growth in female employment is observed in all sectors of the economy and the improved working environment over the past couple of years is the reason why today, women are contributing as doctors, engineers, IT specialist, professors, entrepreneurs and journalists. Women have found opportunities while breaking stereotypes and are playing a central role in building peace, stability, progress and development of the country. However, they are still struggling to create a name for themselves in the male dominated system. In Pakistan, unequal social status and power of men and women are the main enabling factors for men to determine women’s labor, which defines women’s status as subordinate, dependent and inferior in the labor force.
To ensure women’s participation in the national economy, it is equally important for those with power to understand and work towards the goal of economic independence for women and expand the idea of women being able to make their own choices about pursuing a career which suits them best.
Despite all the hurdles, women in Pakistan are making substantive advancement when it comes to economic participation in various sectors of the economy: as domestic labour and agricultural labour, work force for industry and as executives of self-owned businesses. The fact, however, remains that Pakistan needs more of its female population to engage in the economic sphere for it to truly embark upon the road to development. For this to happen, structural changes need to be brought about in the society and polity. In this context various strategies need to be adopted and sectors where women can find it easier to work need to be focused on for policy-making and implementation.
Women-owned SMEs are an underserved segment of the Pakistani economy despite the fact that SME sector has great potential for expanding productive capacity and self-employment opportunities for the women of Pakistan. Efforts are being made to develop and support women-owned businesses in Pakistan by the Pakistan Microfinance Network. The Ministry of Science and Technology has taken Quality and Invention Initiative 2025 for SMEs to support in producing better quality products, improving industrial productivity, achieving high level of competitiveness and having greater penetration of Pakistani products into the international market.
It is pertinent to mention here that a large population of women which belongs to the middle class and lower middle class are enthusiastic to contribute to their country’s progress but the need of the hour is to provide them with opportunities and establish female-friendly working environment in every field.
Pakistan needs to embark on the long walk of female empowerment to achieve the distant dream of socio-economic progress and development. To ensure women’s participation in the national economy, it is equally important for those with power to understand and work towards the goal of economic independence for women and expand the idea of women being able to make their own choices about pursuing a career which suits them best.
The history of female contribution amply demonstrates that whenever they were given opportunities to contribute to the development, they performed exceptionally on all fronts. Without women’s empowerment and general equality, the country will not be able to achieve its economic goals. In Pakistan, female participation in labor market has increased due to increased employment opportunities in urban centers. Women have been coming out to work in order to achieve economic independence as well as to exercise their rights in the society and in family. Such change will have a positive impact on the overall economy and this is the change we need to grow towards.HH
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