Women’s role in development

Courtesy:- Hashim Abro

Indeed, the evidence on the status of women in rural Pakistani society is horrifying and shocking to the conscience. Articles 8 to Article 28 of the 1973 Constitution describe the Fundamental Rights which are to be available to all citizens, women as well as men wherever they may be, as well as all people temporarily or permanently in Pakistan. Articles 23 & 24 provide property rights. 

Articles 25, 26 & 27 provide guarantees of equality & Non- Discrimination. Article 32, Article 34, Article 35, Article 37(e) Article 38(a), Article 38(d). The discriminatory political, socio-economic rules and regulations prevailing in the province, especially, in the upper and lower parts of Sindh province, have barred women from enjoying the fruits of their labour. Without equal opportunities, they have lagged behind men in all fields of self-advancement. Regrettably, the past successive regimes had not given women’s development the priority it deserved and therefore had not created a friendly atmosphere for development initiatives for women. Until recently, governments in Sindh province have not had any policy on women’s affairs. Hence they have not been seen as important potential beneficiaries of government development programs.

Indeed, economic development is unthinkable without the participation of women. In some economic sectors women even constitute a proportionally larger group of the labor force than men. However, because their participation in the economy has not been valued, Sindhi women have not received their fair share of the nation’s wealth. Gender issues do not only concern women. Women’s problems cannot be solved by women alone, but by the coordinated efforts of the society as a whole, including provincial government, national and international NGOs. 

Careful planning in full consultation with women is essential, drawing lessons from past failures and experiences. However, the provincial government, in particular, women development department is requested to take the following practical steps so as to improve the plight of Sindhi women in the rural parts of the province on priority basis. First, it needs to improve the level of income of women by facilitating opportunities and woman-friendly conditions in the workplace, to improve the health and nutrition of mothers and their children and to upgrade and improve their education. Allama Iqbal Open University ( AIOU), Islamabad, may be requested to open Adult Women Literacy Centers ( AWLC) at Taluak level in the province because, this scribe knows hundreds of thousands of Primary Pass women in the rural areas and they want to further their education but there are no avenues for them. They should be imparted education and training in different trades so as to make them self-reliant individuals of the society. The International organizations such as USAID AND Plan International may also be requested for help in this matter. 

Second, it is also necessary to encourage favourable conditions for the formation of new women’s associations, as well as to strengthen existing associations, so that women can have a hand in the resolution of their problems. Only women know the extent and difficulties of domestic labour, especially in the rural areas e, and they should have a say in devising solutions. After all, it is only when women are released from back-breaking domestic work that they will be able to participate in the national development effort on equal terms with men and go on to experience the benefits of their participation. Women should not be restricted to any one association. Instead, they should be free to form associations of their choice in accordance with their specific needs or professions. To that end, it is important to set up conditions in which women will feel confident to initiate ideas and practical activities in ways which suit them and which will promote their interests. The government has the obligation to give them its unreserved support.

Third, Policy on Sindhi Rural Women may be formulated to focus on what the Government ought to do for the rural women, and what the rural Sindhi women must do for themselves through their own free associations, as well as to show the relationships between the two. Fourth, since the democratic process is able to grow and develop effectively when all people are given equal encouragement to exercise their democratic rights, therefore, Sindhi women, estimated to be more than forty percent young and thirty percent aged women who do not have their CNIC, therefore, not registered as voters may be got registered at the earliest. In this connection it is proposed that the grass root level NGOs and CBOs may be mobilized to achieve the still unachieved.


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