Role of Women in the Development of Pakistan

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Women are more powerful than we realize. A woman’s voice is often the deciding factor in how a family votes and the outcome of an election. Needless to say, without this demographic, a nation cannot go forward, let alone thrive. By making women and girls feel important, producing policies that encourage gender equality and supporting women’s organizations and groups in every country, we will heal the world holistically and bring about lasting peace. In 2015, world leaders adopted “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 goals. Only by ensuring the rights of women and girls across all the goals will we get justice and inclusion, economies that work for all, and sustaining our shared environment now and for future generations. Two key elements are essential for building a nation: good governance and development. Pakistan’s shift from being a security state to a welfare state and the country’s development depends on how much the role of women is enhanced in various sectors and how their abilities are utilized. In current times of economic uncertainty and political turmoil, it is ideal for Pakistan to move from a security state to a welfare state. A welfare state is characterized by social equality and equal participation in economic affairs. The welfare state goals can be achieved by creating more jobs, provision of education and health facilities, and women empowerment.

The Government of Pakistan has already taken many initiatives to empower women in Pakistan according to Article 34 of the Constitution of Pakistan: “Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all national and international forums”. One such initiative is the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), which aims to improve the status of women through policy reforms. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and the now Ehsaas Program are initiatives that aim to uplift women’s socio-economic status by providing them with financial assistance.

“We want to empower women, ensure their economic independence and provide them with equal development opportunities.”

These were the words of our Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first speech after becoming the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan. The statement indicated how serious he is in ensuring women’s empowerment in Pakistan. A gendered approach has been adopted in Pakistan’s Vision 2025 to move towards a fair and equitable society, where women’s contributions cannot be undermined or ignored. There are five interlinked components of women’s empowerment embedded in Pakistan Vision 2025. These include: Empowerment through education and skills development, Empowerment through economic participation, Empowerment through the protection of legal rights, Empowerment through political participation, Empowerment by improving the health and nutrition status.

In conjunction with this, United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) has been working closely with the Women’s Commission in Pakistan to help develop and strengthen their capacity to respond to their objectives towards advancing the rights of women and girls. In this regard, UNFPA supported training for fifty staff members of the Punjab Women’s Commission (PWC), including five Commissioners. The training provided learning opportunities in strengthening evidence-based data collection and management skills for effective advocacy, engagement with key partners/stakeholders, mainstreaming gender through vital thematic areas such as ending gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) issues, women economic empowerment, and leadership development. Also, in this regard, the UNFPA Country Office has been supporting capacity-building initiatives for women parliamentarians through the National Assembly’s Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC). The main objective of the collaboration between UNFPA and WPC has been to ensure that government policies, laws, and development programs advance gender equality and women’s rights. Women have always played a vital role in nation-building. There is no denying that without their participation, a nation cannot reach its zenith and become a significant power or even survive as an independent unit. Maya Angelou, a famous champion of civil rights had said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

The history of Pakistan bears witness to the fact that women had always taken part in the progress of this country, and even before Pakistan came into being, our ladies actively participated in the freedom struggle. Some even laid down their lives during those turbulent times when India was under British rule. There are many examples of successful women who have contributed to the development of their country. The most outstanding of these is Fatima Jinnah, sister of Quaid-e-Azam, who played an essential part in achieving Pakistan. She started a movement against the dictatorial regime of General Ayub Khan. Her speeches inspired the people to take a firm stand against the dictator. She was the first woman to contest a presidential election in Pakistan. Women have always played a vital role in nation-building. There is no denying that without their participation, a nation cannot reach its zenith and become a significant power or even survive as an independent unit. Maya Angelou, a famous champion of civil rights had said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

The history of Pakistan bears witness to the fact that women had always taken part in the progress of this country, and even before Pakistan came into being; our ladies actively participated in the freedom struggle. Some even laid down their lives during those turbulent times when India was under British rule. There are many examples of successful women who have contributed to the development of their country. The most outstanding of these is Fatima Jinnah, sister of Quaid-e-Azam, who played an essential part in achieving Pakistan. She started a movement against the dictatorial regime of General Ayub Khan. Her speeches inspired the people to take a firm stand against the dictator. She was the first woman to contest a presidential election in Pakistan.

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