Pakistan’s population is projected among the fast growing in the world with an estimate of over 180 million people and slightly less than half of its population consists of female. Women are the integral part of any society and have a significant role in socio-economic development. Empowerment of women and their active participation in the economic activities is regarded as a crucial step for the overall progress of a nation and sustainable growth. It is also part of the UN adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of which Pakistan itself a signatory. Besides, our government has also adopted a number of other key international commitments to gender equality and women’s rights, but Pakistan’s ranking for gender equality remains one of the lowest in the world.
Female economic participation is imperative for uplifting of life standard of household as women prefer spending huge chunks of their earning on the education, health and food of their children as compared to men, which is direct and healthy investment on the future generation. Majority of country’s population lives in the rural areas where women are even in more challenging situation due to absence of basic facilities and required infrastructure to help them in taking part in mainstream development.
To promote women’s social participation, it is vital that the state takes strong initiative to lead the movement for creating women friendly environment in place of the traditional patriarchal society. Many developed countries have already adopted programmatic approaches to bring women in the mainstream of development. Pakistan may learn from Japan as how the government has started taking initiatives for full utilisation of its women workforce. Towards this direction, Japanese government recently hosted the third “World Assembly for Women 2016” taking steps to achieve ‘A Society Where Women Shine’ as one of the priority agendas of Prime Minister Abe’s administration.
Approximately 190 leaders and activists in women-related fields from 27 countries and 11 international organisations attended the event and discussed how women can be empowered to utilise their potential for socio-economic development.
Previously, in February 2015, Japan included the promotion of women’s participation to one of the principles of its Official Development Assistance and it has also been making efforts to promote women empowerment in developing countries including Pakistan through various projects such as promotion of the non-formal education, upgrade of primary girls’ schools, and support for vocational centers and colleges. Under this theme, Japan has signed a grant aid for women bus project in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa to provide a safe and decent transport facility exclusively for women. This bus service will be operated in Peshawar, Mardan and Abbottabad to ensure safe traveling of girls and women.
Pakistan needs to think seriously about promoting women empowerment in the country. Besides improving the transportation system, steps for women friendly society include: harassment-free workplaces, proper educational institutions for girls, and effective legislation for women protection and its implementation, need to be taken in the initiative of the government. Such steps will help not only ensure a “Society Where Women Shine”, but also will yield a high dividend in long term for contributing towards the sustainable development of the country. In this regards, there is ample space left for government to take action for.
Muhammad Peer. Empowering women. Pakistan Today, May 21, 2017.