Economic Empowerment of Women in Pakistan

Economic Empowerment of Women in Pakistan

Sofia Idris (Government College University, Pakistan)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8611-3.ch007
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This chapter gives an account of the situation on the status of women in Pakistan. It studies the various steps taken by the Government of Pakistan to empower the women. It also studies the various ways to empower women in Pakistan. The chapter only studies the empowerment of women in economic sphere due to the limited time and resources of the author. Moreover, the chapter focuses on the problems of women to participate in economic affairs, the hindrances in achieving economic uplift/empowerment and equality of women in Pakistan and the existing laws and policies of the government regarding women's empowerment and their implementation. Furthermore, it gives a brief comparison of women's economic empowerment with the neighboring countries, India and Bangladesh as these countries have a similar institutional structure as Pakistan. It then seeks to learn from the successful examples of the countries mentioned regarding the matter.
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In the lead-up to the independence of Pakistan, it seemed as if the state would prioritize empowerment of women (Weiss, 2001).

No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you: we are the victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanctions anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live. Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1944)

These are the words of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Quaid -e- Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He was well aware that women need to be empowered and their conditions improved for the betterment of the country. However, cultural constraints still prevail and restrict the mobility of majority of women in the country, particularly limiting their participation in the public affairs of the country; the economic conditions of the women are very poor. The income of women working in rural areas and women home-based workers as mentioned later on in the chapter are some notable examples. Men are considered bread-winners; they are regularly given preference when it comes to hiring professionals. However, in terms of ‘breadwinners’; more and more women provide for their families as single parents, heading up the family. Women’s share in national income despite increase in economic growth is less than 20% while that in formal labor force is 20% which is due to restrictions in their mobility, systemic discrimination, harassment, lack of access to productive and remunerative employment. (International Labour Organization [ILO], 2011)

There are a multiple reasons that make women to seek jobs; some to satisfy their economic needs while others provide additional support for their family income although they are not bound out of severe economic needs. Still more, women work out of choice, to utilize their skills and to provide financial independence and a degree of agency over their future. There are some women who begin their professional career before marriage and are likely to continue to work even after marriage while others don’t (Mirza, 2002) because of social constraints, intensive childbearing and comparatively smaller family size of young women. (Khan, R. A. A. & Khan, T., 2009) While others re-enter the workforce after marriage and childrearing to financially support their families. In Pakistan, a small number of women work to satisfy themselves, with the majority of women working because of differing levels of financial pressure. (Mirza, 2002)

“Smaller gender gaps are directly correlated with increased economic competitiveness,” says Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director, Head of the World Economic Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme and report co-author. “With the world’s attention on job creation and economic growth, gender equality is the key to unlocking potential and stimulating economies.” Women being a significant proportion of society cannot be ignored for the development of the country__ this has been elaborated later on in the chapter.

Nevertheless, the job opportunities have been squeezed for individuals in Pakistan with the Global Economic Recession. The country with one of the world’s highest percentage of youth population 48% (Daily Times, January 7, 2015) is now faced with unemployment challenges that see both men and women suffering equally. The youth especially is facing a lot of problems due to this fact. (The News, September 7, 2013) Although there is a female and minorities quota for jobs in government sector, there is still a lot to be done in this regard.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gender Relations: The term has been used to give an understanding of the account where the women position should be understood in terms of the comparison of the gender relationships, norms, gendered roles, power dynamics or position of males and females in the society.

Labor Force Participation: The word has been used in this chapter in the sense of participation in economic sphere; women employment.

Marginalized: The word has been used for women in this chapter implying the deprived of necessities; disempowered; neglected.

Women Participation: The study generally referred to this term to indicate women’s full and meaningful contribution in the economic sphere as well as the decision making process.

Women’s Empowerment or Women’s Economic Empowerment: The term in this study means that women have enough employment opportunities and are able to participate in the economic sphere. Moreover, they are not dependent on others for monetary and other basic necessities.

Women’s Rights or Women’s Economic Rights: The term in this study means that women are not denied of economic opportunities that help them become independent of others.

Decision Making: The entire process of decision making about anything important or unimportant regarding the family or the individual in the family that require participation of the family members. It has been used to identify if women have a say in the family on the issues having its effects for long term.

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