Women Emancipation- A Progressive Phenomenon
Emancipation is breaking the chains and providing freedom from restraints, constraints and restrictions. ‘Women emancipation’ is referred to as removing the shackles of so-called customs, outdated traditions and worn out values, and adorning women with empowerment. Islam, a religion of equality, has provided the social status to the women equal to that of men. In practice, the objective of women emancipation is to provide equal treatment to the women not just in politics and the work place, but in every sphere of life including access to education and financial security. Despite the manacles of customs and traditions, Pakistan’s improving record with respect to women inclusion and representation demonstrates a progressive phase of women emancipation.
It is this empowerment that is propagated by the greats like Mary Wollstonecraft in “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” and Sojourner Truth’s speech “Ain’t I a Woman”, stressing that women ought to have an equal status in the society as that of men. Although Pakistan has not been able to achieve gender equality, Gender Gap Index ranking Pakistan the 2nd worst country in the world with respect to gender inequality, still interrelated issue faced by women including denial of the right to work, lags in providing justice and exploitation of women working in informal sector are on the agenda of the government. The passage of ‘honor killings’ legislation by national assembly and ‘protection of women against violence’ bill by Punjab assembly are some of the commendable steps taken by the government regarding women empowerment and equality.
On the road to empowering women, Punjab government has taken some unprecedented steps as youth, including both boys and girls, is being made skillful under the Skill Development Program initiated by the government. Moreover, a radical measure has been taken recently, by Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (SMU) in collaboration with UN Women, in the form of Street Theatre Campaign with the objective of addressing the challenges faced by women. A recent launch of women safety app by Punjab government is a measure taken to ensure that women have an effective platform to report the cases of harassment. So, one can say that steps are being taken although slowly but steadily to emancipate women by ameliorating their lives, security conditions and living standards.
The targets set by goal 5 of the SDGs, including the elimination of discrimination and violence, abolition of forced marriages and ensuring the access to equal opportunities, are needed to achieve on priority bases in order to protect the social and economic status of women.
According to Alif Ailaan, Pakistan’s District Education Ranking 2016, 52 percent of all girls within the age bracket of 5 and 16 years are currently out of school as compared to 43 percent of all boys.
These figures represent a grim picture of status of women when the question comes to alleviate gender disparity. However looking some other figures, such as Pakistan having highest women representation in parliament in South Asian region and Pakistan being the first Muslim country to have a female head of the state, one can say that in Pakistan although women empowerment has not been achieved completely, still emancipation is taking place progressively.
Despite all the positive indicators, including World Bank’s predictions regarding Pakistan’s growth rate to be 5.2 percent for the fiscal year 2017 and Pakistan to be the 18th largest economy by 2050, there is a void that is needed to be filled as soon as possible by uplifting the living standards of deprived and impoverished section of the society and women occupy center stage in this respect.
So Pakistan, being the sixth most populous country in the world and comprising half of its population as females, could translate its high GDP growth rate into overall prosperity if the facilities such as freedom, security and education are being provided veraciously to the women of both urban and rural areas without having a segregation between the rich and the poor.
Inclusion and representation of women in all spheres of life are immensely important subjects. All this is being done in the form of signing of legislations to protect women from violence, improved role of both media and civil society is voicing for the rights of women and efforts being made by the international organizations such as United Nations etc. to ameliorate the status of women in Pakistan. Although the current level of gender equality and women emancipation is not satisfactory, still one must acknowledge the fact that woman empowerment is eventuating in Pakistan through improved legislations and enactments and today’s woman is far better in terms of access to education, healthcare and freedom than its predecessors.
By Ayesha Iftikhar