By Saman Siddiqui
A woman wearing white color knee high, backless dress, spotted smoking somewhere in New York. Paparazzi took the shot and in the next few hours, the photos gone viral in Pakistan. The women identified as famous actress people went haywire, because she was smoking with an Indian co-actor. As she is in New York, she is one of the few empowered women who represent Pakistan. If a girl is found smoking back at home, say in a city like Karachi I don’t know how to put those words here in this piece of writing which the society will use for that girl. And don’t forget the dress code for the society we dwell in.
A lot is said mostly through media how the women and girls should make their voices heard, the message for women empowerment is embraced through large chunk of television programming and film industry. There are special kind of programs designed for encouragement of young girls and women this mainly include advertising campaigns with main character portrayed by females delivering messages regarding empowerment. But how many take it to consideration and act on this advice? We always forget that women voices are not welcomed across the public sphere of our society.
What is women empowerment for you? Especially when we talk in context of Pakistani society. Empowering women is a process which takes place slowly for acquiring power for women in order to gain understanding of their rights and provide such conditions where they can carry out their responsibilities towards their self and others. It is making women more contented by enabling them with a greater extent of self esteem and confidence. In a male dominant society where discrimination is imposed, it provides with them capacity to resist and make better living.
The very thought also challenges traditional power equations and relations on actual grounds as well, it is not easy for women belonging to various social class. Some time the meaning of empowerment can differ for the women belonging to upper social class as compared to middle and lower social class, that is my personal observation not may be able to agree to that.
Women empowerment abolishes all gender base discrimination in all institutions and structures of society, making ensure that the participation of women is possible in policy and decision making at domestic and public levels of society. It is an ongoing dynamic process which enhances women’s abilities to change the structure and ideologies that keep them subordinate. This process also creates awareness and works for capacity building. It occurs on various grounds simultaneously, within sociological, psychological, political, cultural, domestic and economic spheres and at individual, group and community levels.
Empowerment for women also aims for providing access to knowledge and resources. For greater autonomy in decision making and freedom from the restraints imposed to them in face of customs, social practices and cultural values. Woman empowerment works to make women gain power to face the challenges of life, to overcome the disabilities and face the inequalities which are virtues of a male dominant society. And irony is that life is not same for all.
In modern societies Gender is considered to be a central concept. The empowerment for women and gender quality is a key for policy makers. But unfortunately we are not part of a modern society. But this concept is getting attention in many business related agendas. However, the gender gap prevails in our society and this phenomenon is remarkably evident in health, education, and labor sectors and persistent in politics as well.
There are various determinants of this gender gap. For any country like Pakistan who wants to put forward effective ways to realize equality between men and women and promote a balanced pattern of economic growth, understanding of such factors is very important. With the realizations of these determinants policies can be formulated to support women empowerment.
Historical roots and culture matter in determining gender gaps in a society. Due to which attitudes and behaviors towards women are formulated, that also results in making choices for females in particular that include family choices and education choices as well. Institutions can play a crucial role in supporting female employment and determining the glass ceiling. Women’s empowerment and economic development are interrelated and education is the first engine of women empowerment.
Women are integral part of society; there contribution for making country strong cannot be undermined. Female population in Pakistan is 49.2 % whereas women participation in labor force is only 28%, this ratio is extremely low. Women empowerment can play excellent role in the economic development of Pakistan and that’s not possible without women employment. Empowerment is not just about doing some kind of work or job; a woman will be empowered if she is able to take a decision for herself.