Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men such as, norms and roles. These norms and roles vary from society to society. Gender equality is a phenomenon that gives equal rights and responsibilities to all human beings regardless of their gender.

Since the past few decades, the phenomenon of gender equality is valued in Economic, Social and Political dimensions. According to World Bank, productivity can be enhanced if gender disparities are ruled out by giving equal access to men and women in all spheres, in order to progress holistically. Gender equality is a key factor in contributing to the economic growth of a nation. It has become a need of the hour, as women represent half of the world’s population. In Pakistan, females constitute about 51 % of the total population. In the context of development and economy, this percentage of manpower is a highly valuable resource for the country’s prosperity. However, Pakistan has been facing the issue of gender inequality in all dimensions. This inequality is due to gender-discrimination, which stems from the patriarchal society of Pakistan.

In Pakistan, it is a general perception that women can only be productive in household chores and child-rearing. Women face a lot of constraints while taking part in the economic arena. But this doesn’t start when a woman seeks employment, it begins when women have limited opportunities in getting higher education. As of 2015, the total literate population of Pakistan is 57.9%, out of which 64.2% are males and 35.8% are females. And only half of them make it to higher education. This dilemma is taking a toll on the economy of Pakistan. The empowerment of women through education proves to be a major determinant of economic growth and advancement of economic development.

The era of globalization calls for women’s participation in the economic realm. The biggest challenge for gender equality in Pakistan is the conservative mindset of both men and women due to patriarchal norms, which are demonstrated in the ruling class all over the world trying to control women’s freedom. It is deliberately manifested in the political, economic and social grounds of our society. This hinders women’s entry into the development sector, making prospects for economic prosperity somewhat low. Women can only be liberated from the shackles of patriarchy when this mindset is changed. For that purpose, educating people about women empowerment is the first step. Secondly, men need to come forward and promote women’s participation in the development sector.

Scholars also believe that there is a correlation between a high GNP per capita and low gender inequality. This can only be meted-out by reducing gender disparity in the development sector. According to World Bank, 40 percent global labor force is comprised of women, from whom 43 percent of the world’s agriculture labor force is female labor. Throughout history, most women have been employed in either health sector, education sector or agriculture. Women of Pakistan are seen in every sector but majority of the female workforce is dedicated to health, education and agriculture sectors. It is important to know that this is a discrimination in itself as social placement of men and women in a profession is different for example, women are placed in a position which is lower in significance. For example, men in agriculture are farmers, horticulturists and agricultural equipment operators, while women in agriculture are crop collectors and fruit pickers. On top of that, their contributions are not even recognized by economists. Furthermore, women in every occupation experience a wage gap. In development sector, the discrimination comes in the form of glass ceiling. Glass ceiling is when women are not promoted after reaching a certain position in their profession. Sadly, patriarchy also exists at workplaces. As mentioned earlier, men should come forward to break these norms and empower women for the prosperity of nation. Women should break free from sexism and fight for equality.

It must be realized that everyone possesses distinctive talents and each one of them has something unique to offer. Since the beginning, he third gender has been excluded from all spheres of life. Its time they should be given due consideration. Fortunately, the Government of Pakistan has increased women quota in both educational institutions and development sectors. Moreover, the Punjab public service commission has taken a meaningful initiative by offering BS-17 scale job opportunities to the third gender.

The first step to reduce gender inequality is to provide equal education facilities to everyone. This will help people, regardless of their gender, develop skills in their area of expertise. The second step is to provide ample job opportunities to women in order to bring more women in to the workforce. Thirdly, provision of equal job opportunities should be a prime focus of public and private authorities so as to utilize maximum human resources. Gender equality brings not only economic prosperity but it is also responsible for social uplift in a nation. Only then this nation will prosper rapidly.

Tayyaba Ikhlaq

Tayyaba Ikhlaq

has done M.Phil in Government & Public Policy from the National Defense University, Islamabad.

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