The International Women's Day, 8th of March, has been observed since the early 1900's, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that 'all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970's know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
However, Pakistan has been one of the front runners on the political empowerment, where it had a woman prime minister and increased participation of women in the political platforms, The International Women’s Day also reminds us that Pakistan has still a lot to do so the school girls are welcomed into universities, women can work and have a family and provide women with real choices. The tone and nature of International Women’s Day has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a collaborated work force aiming at a more optimistic future.
The International Women’s Day is marked across the world, where women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day. On this occasion, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace, development and economic empowerment.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2007, published each year by the World Economic Forum, the social and economic empowerment of Pakistani women is still very low and their struggle is still on.
Pakistan is ranked at 126 among 128 countries in 2007 in the Global Gender Gap Report (GGG). This report provides a comprehensible framework for assessing and comparing global gender gaps and by revealing those countries that, regardless of the overall level of resources available, are role models in dividing these resources equitably between women and men.
The Global Gender gap Report 2007 also identifies a gap in the overall participation of the women to be integrated into the workforce in Pakistan; Although the enrolment ratio between female and male at the primary education level is 59% (females) to 77% (males) only 2% of the females reach the position of senior officials, legislators and managers, as compared to 98% of the males in similar conditions.
The Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF), a joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, is the partner institution of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Pakistan and is working with the WEF to assist the Government of Pakistan as a catalyst for greater awareness as well as greater exchange between policy-makers.
Although Pakistan is doing well on the Political Empowerment of Women, where it stands at 43 among 128 countries, the indicators on Economic Participation and Opportunity for Women are still weak, as Pakistan stands at 126. Also on the Labour Force Participation of Women, Pakistan ranked at 121 among 128 countries.
On the social indicators, Pakistan ranks on 123 on the Educational Attainment pillar and 121 on the Health and Survival pillar among the 128 countries. The Report also indicates that the overall population sex ration (male/female) in Pakistan is almost 1.05, with an overall population growth at 2.41%.
Arthur Bayhan, Chief Executive Officer of CSF, reinforced the importance of the available data on Gender. He said that “Pakistan needs to update and timely submit the data on issues relevant to the economic empowerment of gender to the international sources. It is crucial for Pakistan to reflect achievements made in the last few years, to improve Pakistan’s ranking on the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum”.
Bayhan further added that the Competitiveness Support Fund is in the process of preparing the State of Pakistan’s Competitiveness Report 2008. CSF will include a special section on gender, trade and competitiveness in the State of Pakistan’s Competitiveness Report 2008. The Report will identify the gender gaps affecting competitiveness in Pakistan, especially the areas identified by the World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008 and the Global Gender Gap Report 2007.
The State of Pakistan’s Competitiveness Report 2008 will provide a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities. It will also provide explanations for policy-makers and business leaders in seeking solutions for talent shortages and how to close gender gaps and leverage the talents of both women and men.
CSF supports Pakistan’s goal of a more competitive economy by providing input into policy decisions, working to improve regulatory and administrative frameworks and enhancing public-private partnerships within the country. CSF also provides technical assistance and co-financing for initiatives related to entrepreneurship, business incubators and private-sector-led initiatives with research institutes and universities that contribute to creating a knowledge-driven economy.
Support for CSF is part of the $1.5 billion in aid that the U.S. Government is providing to Pakistan over five years to improve economic growth, education, health, and governance.