Turning rhetoric into reality; gender equality for a sustainable economic growth
Women are an integral part of the economic development of a country, within and outside of their homes, in urban as well as rural settings, as formal and informal agents of economic growth. The sad reality is that women all over the world continue to face the daily indignities of discrimination, harassment, violence and social taboos. About 90% of the countries have some legal restriction on women’s economic activity. This raises the question of what sort of a legacy do we want to leave for the future generation? The 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development and it’s 17 sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the world leaders in 2015 embody the contours of the world we want to create, they create a roadmap for progress that is sustainable and leaves no one behind.
Women’s empowerment and achieving gender equality is integral to each of these 17 goals. Only by ensuring the rights of women across all the goals, we can achieve inclusion and justice; we can aim for economies that are sustainable and work for all.
Women constitute half of the 207 million population in Pakistan. There’s a close relationship between economic growth, gender equality and women empowerment, which can be defined as improving the ability of women to access the constituents of development in particular education, health, earning opportunities, political participation and decision making. Female employment rate in Pakistan (4.3%) is considered among the lowest in the world ranking. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Pakistan’s women labor force rate is 22.6%, in economic participation it ranks 126 out of 128 in the world, 121 out of 128 in health and a dismal 123 out of 128 in education. These figures are quite perplexing for a country struggling with it’s worse ever economic crises. An eye opener to our economic policy makers should be the Global Gender Gap report 2017, wherein Pakistan has been ranked as the second worst country in the world, among 144 countries. Ironically, we are only better than Yemen, but worst than Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Currently only 30% of our female labor force works from home, while the remaining 70% prefer not to travel far for work. Multiple factors like mobility restrictions, cultural dogmas, social taboos, and most importantly security concerns, contribute to these dismal statistics.
“Tackling income and gender inequalities can have a huge economic impact”
At a GDP per capita of $5235, comparable to that of Sudan, we are lagging behind Congo, Nigeria and Myanmar. The foremost reason for our low GDP are a low female labor force participation in economic activities. By providing women with proper training and skills, resources, and equal access to economic institutions, women can contribute not only to bringing a stability to their families but also contribute to strengthening the economic indicators of the country.
More than 3 years into the implementation of 2030 agenda for Sustainable development, gender equality and inclusion of women in all segments of economic decision making are fundamental to the progress of the country.
How far have we come to meeting the targets of the 2030 agenda into tangible results for women on the ground, have we been able to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality? These are some of the pertinent questions we need to focus on to find answers to some, if not all, of our economic woes. Fulfilling the right of gender equality, we have a better chance at meeting some of the pressing challenges of our time; from economic crises and lack of proper health care, to climate change, gender based violence and conflicts. It should be remembered that women are not only more affected by these challenges, but possess unique insights, ideas and leadership to solve them.
Tapping into female human resource can have far fetching results for Pakistan. The issue of economic gender parity, if addressed adequately and properly can become a catalyst for Pakistan’s future economic growth. According to research, if the female labor force participation in Pakistan increases to 45%, we can transition from a lower- middle income (LMIC) to a middle-income country(MIC). However, under the present circumstances, all this looks like an elusive dream.
– The writer is a freelance consultant working in the area of environment and health. She has a keen interest in Climate Change and it’s impacts on population health and human security.