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Acknowledging inconvenient inequalities

The mathematical materialisation of gender equality and human equality is the act of the calm economists and not of the emotional rights activists. One out of every 5 people in the world lives in South Asia and 6 South Asian countries rank in the bottom 20 in terms of addressing inequalities on recently devised CRI (Commitment to Reducing Equality Index), that measures the commitment of 152 governments to reducing the gap between the rich and the poor by measuring the government action on social spending, tax and labour rights.

Though ‘Might is Right’ is still the standard global order but officially ‘Right is Might’ is professed. Therefore, the progress of countries is measured by the United Nations, since 1990, not by their GN Ponly but also in terms of equalities in Human Development. It is focused on people, their opportunities and entails the ability to sustain, to maintain self-esteem and the freedom to choose as its core values.

Though the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are hailed as the most successful anti-poverty movement in history, the world remains unequal. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), a transforming agenda with a set of 17 goals and 244 indicators and deadline of year 2030 is the new commitment. It is widely agreed that the SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 5 (gender equality) are necessary building blocks for all the development goals to be realised.

Our society is judging rather than understanding people and becoming spitefully status sentient. Meanwhile, the political, military and civil elites are swiftly ensuring alternate stable lives in foreign countries

Even in 2017, the women suffer most from either the poverty of income or opportunities or both, and are the first to be harmed and last to be heard. Where do Pakistani women stand in the world that has no morality in politics and diplomacy, where high military expenditures and anti-poor and male power structures still continue to shape the countries? The development of our people including women and that of Pakistan is not mutually exclusive provided one adheres to the standard definition of development i.e. better lives for all people. ‘All’ is secret in the recipe of development. Let’s try looking inwards — a difficult exercise. However, the intellectual courage, to look at some random examples and validated data may aid many of us in sensing two Pakistans; a Pakistan of masses and a Pakistan of classes with little if any space for the influence of self-made and hardworking men in general and women in particular.

Professor Emeritus Richard Wilkinson in his book with Professor Kate Pickett The Spirit Level argued that more unequal countries have much more violence, worse life expectancy, more mental illness, more obesity, more people in prison, and more teenage births. All these problems get worse with greater inequality, because it damages the social fabric of a society.

What are the expressions of such damages in our country? The society is judging rather than understanding people and becoming spitefully status sentient. Our political, military and civil elites are swiftly ensuring alternate stable lives in foreign countries. Take a random sample and find out where their children are studying and or settled abroad, where their monetary investments are; how many of them have dual nationalities?

The normative status assigned to the vulgar display of wealth in our architecture, weddings, TV morning shows and mistreatment of socially weak has become a trademark of our society. The abuses against children, women and girls, unreported cases of pestering of women, and prostitution among the college going young women are escalating. The commoditisation of health and education, absence of merit and selective activism by the civil society are distressing. The social comparisons and anxieties are increasing. The roles of gender-filtered donor funded activities that are often are nurturing nepotism, adhocism, prescriptive and unviable solutions merit a separate discussion.

Pakistan sees very high maternal (260/100000 live births) and infant (66.57/1000 live births) mortality rates and an incredibly high gender gap. Only 19.3 per cent of women in Pakistan reach secondary education compared to 46.1 per cent of men, while female participation in the labour market is 24.6 per cent compared to 82.9 per cent for men. Pakistan is ranked 148th best country in the world out of 172 for children to grow up in, reveals a report ‘Stolen Childhood 2017’. Pakistan stands on 139, on CRI, as the disadvantaged communities specially women face massive inequities. As a country with the medium human development, Pakistan is ranking 147 out of 188 countries and territories and 121st out of 155 countries on Gender Inequality Index.

The difference between patience and criminal silence must be acknowledged. The people have an indubitably notable nerve here and there is an A list of few achievers in Pakistan, to make us proud. However, the projection of this pride and positivity must not take away the attention from the social and legal endorsement of many forms of visible and invisible misogyny, elitist consensus and exclusionary practices.

Such discriminations are marching into the mindsets of the media, manifestos of the political parties and management of public sector, voluntary and private sector organisations. This rather faceless and shadowy leaning must be discerned and diagnosed. The game changers, disrupters and charismatic leaders must take immediate Pakistan and people-centric actions to ensure human security, transformational leadership, gender mainstreaming and accessible social justice as human development and women empowerment and inequalities cannot coexist.

Perveen, Rakshinda. Acknowledging inconvenient inequalities. Daily Times, September 27, 2017.

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