Are we still not at that point where it is needless to restate the importance of women? Do we still need to be told how we can change our destiny by a simple process of inclusion where women are given due right. We will only be employing about 49% of our total population, which, at the moment rusts behind closed doors and condescending remarks. It is a given that women’s rights are perpetually non-existent in third world countries where women are treated as second rate citizens, dependent on men as their providers, unable to fend for themselves because the job market is certainly not a place for women, as women are often told. Thus women may not be allowed due share in the decision making process and governance in accordance to their population, ability or talent, but they are at least represented. And Pakistan gives 2nd largest representation to women in the Parliament and assemblies in the region, which is higher than India, Iran, Saudia, U.A.E, Turkey, and even U.S.A. Of course it fails to matter because the minimalistic significance given to women in decision making, but the numbers put a good show at least.
It is not all locked doors and barriers for women though. Women are making strides in the Civil Services of Pakistan, bagging quite a number of top positions, even in the prestigious District Management. Even women parliamentarians are trying to prove their matter. Recently, a female parliamentarian in the Punjab Assemble, Mrs. Sobia Satti tried to facilitate the people of her area with water supply schemes after availing a “Chief Minister Directive.” However, her good intentions were bogged down in the bureaucratic machinery, when the D.C.O Rawalpindi failed to provide her with an Administrative Approval for weeks. What is more tragic is that the District Officer Planning (D.O.P), also a woman, not just refused to facilitate a representative of the people, and belittled the effort and zest of the female parliamentarian to help her people, but also disparaged Mrs. Satti, and with her the entire female population of this country and the feminist cause in general, by stating that development schemes are not given to women Parliamentarians as a policy, because they are only “show piece” in these assemblies. It is one thing to be treated inferiorly by the opposite sex, but when woman themselves hurt their cause by trampling on other woman, is not just tragic, it’s shameful.
Where it is important to condemn the bureaucracy’s shameful attitude, it is also important to applaud Mrs. Satti’s grit. Refusing to be impeded by the bureaucracy, she took a stand against the rust in the bureaucratic machinery and floated a Privilege Motion in her assembly. She is the first one from treasury benches during this assembly who tabled a privilege motion and pressed her house to send it to Privilege committee successfully.
Pakistan violates the ideals of female empowerment and gender equality in all walks of life despite being a signatory of Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which highlights the inefficacy of such hollow conventions at the same time underlining the efforts of people like Mrs. Satti, who make concrete efforts to support their causes. The fact that such discrimination exists in law making institutions such as the Assembly is depressing, but unavoidable given the cultural stigmatization of the working woman. But the attitude of the bureaucracy, being educated, and well-trained is just inexcusable. Senior officers have adopted an unwritten policy not to accommodate development schemes of women member or just to accommodate male members in development. Women Law makers are ignored in all major policy decisions.
In such a situation Mrs. Satti demonstrated guts and nerves to react on this prejudice and chauvinist attitude of senior district administration without the fear that she belongs to a treasury benches. And for that she deserves appreciation. But we hope that there will be others like Mrs. Satti who will support the cause for female empowerment in this country with this much fortitude because we cannot afford to ignore or discriminate against such a huge chunk of our population without fear of consequence.