Father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah once said: “No Nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against women humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”
Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan inherited the menace of poverty. The burden of this poverty was put heavily on the female population. Women were neglected and under-nourished. All the governments had tried in one form or the other but could not make a very happy progress because of various reasons. In a globalising world gender equality and empowerment of women are vital tools to achieve the sustainable development therefore it’s very important to bring women into main stream so that they can play its role in the development of the country.
Women empowerment refers broadly to the expansion of freedom of choice and action to shape one’s life. It implies control over resources and decisions. An empowered woman will be one who is self-confident. Who critically analyses her environment and who exercises control over decisions that affect her life.The idea of empowerment manifests itself at all levels of interaction. It is found in giving a voice to the weak and marginalised. It requires having access to the needed tools and materials for the expansion of capacities. Women empowerment has five components: women’s sense of self-worth, their right to have and determine choices, their right to have access to opportunities and resources, their right to have the power to control their own lives both within and outside the home, and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order nationally and internationally. Today the present government is committed and believes in creating, an enabling environment for people in general to enjoy long healthy and creative life and for women in particular. For promoting gender equality and women empowerment, the Government of Pakistan has signed many international and national commitments like the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, National Plan of Action and Millennium Developments Goals. Despite all these national and international commitments, women are still in poverty.
It should come as no surprise that Pakistan is listed as one of the countries that have large gender gaps in education, and therefore requires heavy investments in girls’ education for a socio-economic uplift. A brief look at statistics helps us gauge the magnitude of the challenge facing the country’s education sector. Two areas have a consistent poor performance: rural areas and women segments. However, the government efforts’ are laudable in lessening this gap. Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Michelle Obama meeting is also very important in this context. They announced a new partnership to further adolescent girls’ education in Pakistan as a part of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative that aims to help adolescent girls around the globe attend and complete school. Joining hands with Mrs. Obama retreated that we shall see about making a difference and we shall not rest until every girl is learning and in school. We shall not rest until every mother is confident that her daughter will have a better life than what she had.
It is worth recalling that enhancing the participation of women in mainstream development would mean providing greater opportunities and accessibility for them to make decisions, to manage their own resources and to be self-reliant. Therefore considering the plight of women and to uplift the status of women in society, the government of Punjab has started many initiatives. One of them is the implementation of Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP), Punjab. The main goal of the GRAP is to bring about such changes in the structures and process of the government that it brings equality among man and women. RAP is implementing its agenda of gender main streaming and empowerment through its four key reforms, i.e., women employment in public sector, political participation, policy and fiscal reform and institutional restructuring. Main purpose of the GRAP is to initiate proposals for bringing about institutional reforms to include gender perspective at Provincial and district level. To promote the gender equality and women empowerment, to highlight the importance of women representation and participation in decision making and to motivate the women towards public and private sector employment. GRAP is organising awareness rising programmes like celebration of events, seminars, workshops and trainings at district and at provincial level on a regular basis through its three main units.
Moreover, for the promotion and protection of women rights, to restore the personal security and dignity of women and to give them protection at workplace, the Pakistan Government has taken deliberate and conscious steps like reservations of 10 percent quota for females, on the political side, reservation of thirty three percent seats for women in all local bodies more than 36,000 women councilors, 17 percent seats have been reserved for women in the constituent Assembly, Senate, Provincial Assembly and in national assembly, to tackle the issues of harassment and to eliminate the gender based violence. Pakistan’s government has taken many measures to enhance the participation of women in economic sphere, but instead of all this, there is dire need to upgrade the status of women in society and it is possible only to give them protection legally and mentally. In the nutshell it can be said that God in his infinite wisdom created women to play her role in the advancement of human affairs in her own way as man was ordained to provide her protection so that she may perform her assigned duties with dignity. But man has subjected women to all kinds of exploitation, social, economic and political. The result is that the female population is put aside as good-for-nothing.
To be in her true self contributing to the advancement of the society in her assigned manner, she has to be empowered in every walk of life. It is a globally accepted fact that when women have full agency and participation in business, economies are strengthened, societies become more stable and just, internationally goals for development sustainability and human rights are achieved, the quality of life improves not just for women, but for men, families and communities, entire businesses operations and goals are pushed forward to success.