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SAWERA-at-workSAWERA works for women's empowerment in Khyber Agency and FATA, Pakistan.

By Hena Gul, Human Resources Manager of SAWERA, Peshawar, Pakistan

Women make up more than half of the population in Pakistan. Women are also an important part of the society, and their importance cannot be ignored or undervalued.

In Pakistan, the women have no contribution in most activities or decision making, and this can be seen as a major obstacle towards development. And women’s participation in civil and social activities, and their contribution on a national and international level, is necessary in order to  progress gender equality and reduce gender disparities, thus steering the country towards development. Furthermore, there is no doubt that without women’s participation, a country is unable to achieve success in matters relating to politics, sports, and the economy etc.

Women possess equal rights, as much as men do in progressing development –  be at home, or in formal or informal environments, women are taking their responsibilities seriously, and in a sincere and committed way.

Education, Employment and Economic Empowerment

Let’s start by observing the status of women in Pakistan through education, employment, and marital life, so it will help us to understand the fundamental roles of women better, and how women can lead better lives through self determination, and in return, creating positive changes that will improve the country.

Is there any other more basic role for women than motherhood?

Yes, in employment, and being able to contribute to all levels of the economy. The Pakistani law should consider factoring in quotas for women employment in each sector of the economy.

Although education opportunities have improved for the Pakistani women in recent years, there is still room for improvement. There are many women still lacking access to proper education. The government should look at ways to reach out to these women, provide  assistance, and increase the level of education among women.

Unemployment and the lack of financial status is also a major problem for Pakistani women. One of the reasons being, in some conservative cultures, women are not permitted to leave their homes, or seek employment. And this is due to the lack of awareness on the importance of education, understanding the the abilities of women, and how women are also able to help generate financial support within their communities. 

Women's Voices and Contribution to Society

Raising awareness on the contribution women can provide to society, their educational needs, and employment –  especially in the area of improving the economy - is important. In its present state and condition the country is in financially, it is impossible for only one segment of the populous to take over all the problems that are inherent.

Society should encourage women to explore their natural abilities, allow women to voice their opinions and ideas, and help secure their basic rights without prejudice. People – especially women, should be encouraged to seek an education and employment. There must also be proper management of the educational system, and within the sectors of the economy, to allow for the feasibility of women’s participation.

Gender discrimination should also be avoided, and special preference should be given to  women to aid development and growth because women are less numbered in each sector of the economy in Pakistan.

In Some Parts of Pakistan, Cultural Norms Hold Back Women's Progress

In some communities, a woman is considered more respectable, may she be a daughter, a mother, a sister, or a wife. However, in certain parts of Pakistan, the role of a woman is being denied in the name of Islam. This is one of the cultural norms and values people still hold on to, and some educated people share this same thought and concept of women too.

But Islam teaches the equality of every human being, whether they are male or female.

Women Need to Participate Fully in Every Sector

A revolution of progress will occur if the women of a country are allowed to participate in every sector of society, but this can only happen when women are provided with more opportunities. The full integration of women in the development process requires a multidisciplinary approach, because women’s issues cannot be considered as separate, or be isolated from the rest of the society. When women are empowered and are involved in decision making, the planning and implementation of programmes, this will have a positive impact on the country, and in the women’s personal development too.

When Women Progress, the Country Progresses

A revolution of progress will occur if the women of a country are allowed to participate in every sector of society, but this can only happen when women are provided with more opportunities. The full integration of women in the development process requires a multidisciplinary approach, because women’s issues cannot be considered as separate, or be isolated from the rest of the society.

When women are empowered and are involved in decision-making and the planning and implementation of programmes, this will have a positive impact on the country, and in the women’s personal development too.

It is also necessary for the government to improve healthcare and hygiene, women’s access to information, and giving women the opportunity to develop skills necessary to fulfill their expected roles at home and in the community. Gender equality should be inclusive because it is important, and should be seen as an agent to a more developed, democratic and stabilized society. Women’s participation in politics has been insignificant.

However, women who are in leadership positions can play a vital role in encouraging and bringing other women together, creating the opportunity for dialogue, and finding solutions to problems. Women know their ability in contributing to their communities, but are also aware of their status and place in society.

Over the years, women have made some progress, and are now involved in various fields, and have proven to be committed to their expected responsibilities. And when women are given equal rights and access to education, it is through education that women can rid themselves from irrational beliefs too. 

Women and Men Need to Pull Together and Unite Forces

There is a saying in Pakistan:

“A man and a woman are like two wheels of a cart. The cart can move fast and safely when both of them are pulling the cart in the same direction, and with equal strength, but if one of the wheels is damage, nothing will be possible.”

Hence, no developing country or society can afford to ignore the role of a woman, if it desires progress.