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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 708, 6 January 2024

On tapping women’s potential



Women constitute around 49.2 per cent of Pakistan’s population which is almost half the total population

Rohini Reenum

On 6 January, an editorial in The News International titled Women in the workforce written by Xainab Baloch lamented the fact that Pakistan has left behind its women and undervalued the role they can play in solving the economic problems of the country. The editorial argues that women are equipped with “art, talent, skills and willpower” and their “involvement in trade is directly proportional to the country’s progress and economic stability.” They also possess “core skills in agriculture, farming, IT, handicrafts, and many other areas” which can help Pakistan capitalize opportunities and stand out in the markets abroad. For example, women in some areas of Sindh and Punjab are good at making traditional chaddar, dupatta, tablecloth and other cutlery or decoration items and the country must ensure they have access to markets at a fair price. Women have also demonstrated their ability to be competitive in the trade sector across the world and Pakistan should learn from this trend. Institutional support from authorities like Chambers of Commerce or the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) can go a long way in helping women showcase their work and monetize their skills and products.  
 
 According to UN Women, women constitute around 49.2 per cent of Pakistan’s population which is almost half the total population. Given the aforementioned contributions that women have the unique ability to make, it is alarming that their role has been limited to the household. It is equally worrisome that women have not been given access to leadership positions or encouraged to lead. This has forced them to seek opportunities abroad. The author has further argued that women must be allowed to experiment and come up with innovative solutions. In fact, the first woman owned and led co-working space has come up in Islamabad. This demonstrates the capacity of women to make space for themselves despite odds and lead from the front.
 
Barriers in Muslim countries
Another editorial in The Express Tribune titled Enhancing gender diversity in Muslim countries written by Najam Durdana has stated that “women in Muslim countries have been the worst target of inequality, missed opportunities and male chauvinism.” The editorial argues that this was not always the case and that “women were permitted to participate in political decision-making, inherit property as a legal heir, and own and run a business.” In fact, Muslim women have traditionally participated in economic activities. The first instance is that of the first spouse of Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Khadija, who remained active in the economic realm even after embracing Islam. Over a period of time, however, the women in Muslim societies have been excluded with “violations, discrimination and abuses against girls” resurfacing. Access to education and employment opportunities have been marred by “imposed cultural and religious backwardness” and veil has become a tool of repression and controlling movement. The editorial further argues that Quran does not forbid economic participation and Muslim countries must aim to course-correct by imparting “inclusive and progressive education that transcends cultural, societal and religious barriers to give agency and dignity to all persons.”
 
Pakistan has been dealing with an ongoing economic crisis: increasing inflation and debt. It has roped in the IMF’s help to deal with the latter. While a foreign helping hand is crucial to deal with the current situation, Pakistan must aim for self-sufficiency in the long-run. Help from abroad is often conditional and always forthcoming. Given the potentialities of an inclusive economic space discussed above, Pakistan must explore its options.

References
Xainab Baloch“Women in the workforce,” The News International, 6 January 2024
Durdana Najam, “Enhancing gender diversity in Muslim countries,” The Express Tribune, 6 January 2024

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