Gender equality a distant dream

In our part of the world, Benazir Bhutto became the first female prime minister of the Islamic world. Her rise to power had certainly motivated the women to break the shackles and to grab the higher positions in the power structure

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By Amjad Ali Siyal

Women are almost half of the world’s more-than-seven billion population. Despite that gender equality remains an elusive dream. This regressive trend cannot be associated with the third world countries alone rather it is problem prevalent even in the developed countries. Indeed, this problem is deeply embedded in the social structures which is hindering in providing an equality status to the women across the world. Simultaneously, there is no denying the fact that the situation has improved in the last many decades, albeit not up to a satisfactory level. For women’s equality, no holistic efforts have been made. Thus, this needs to change for a balanced, progressive and peaceful world.

The United States of America, which is championing the cause of gender equality, ironically that country itself has never been led by any female President since its birth in 1776. Paradoxically, third world countries are often lectured by US for gender equality. To put into perspective, former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton who despite winning most delegates than any previous female candidate, lost the Democrat’s nomination to former President of the United States (POTUS) Barak Obama in 2008 electoral cycle. Ms Clinton once again tried in 2016 for presidential election. This time she won the primary elections and was nominated as Democrat’s presidential candidate. Unfortunately, the deeply embedded structural problem which considers women inferior to man, prevented her from becoming the President of the sole superpower. Resultantly, Trump got elected POTUS who has created more troubles for the world than resolving them. For instance, world is at the verge of another great annihilation as a small miscalculation in Iranian stalemate may lead towards the much-dreaded World War III. To further substantiate my viewpoint, Afghanistan is far less powerful than Iran, after the 9/11, US invasion of Afghanistan changed the global dynamics forever even to this day America has failed to bring about peace in Afghanistan. Imagine if Iran is attacked which has allies like Russia, Syria and Hizbollah.

This would have catastrophic consequences not only for the interest of the United States, its allies but, no country can escape this devastation. Tragedies cannot be ruled out especially when the leaders take decisions based on their instincts as does President Trump. If Hillary has been elected, the situation would certainly have been different. Hillary is certainly much experienced than president Trump in dealing with the foreign policy issues. Hillary at least must have avoided dealing foreign policy issues through twitter.

In our part of the world, Benazir Bhutto became the first female prime minister of the Islamic world. Her rise to power had certainly motivated the women to break the shackles and to grab the higher positions in the power structure. Later on, Dr. Fehmida Mirza became the first female speaker of the National Assembly and Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar being the first female foreign minister of the country. From our eastern side, Ms. Indira Ghandi became prime minister. Sushma Swaraj led the Ministry of External Affairs and Nirmala Sitararam held the Defence portfolio. Nonetheless, few women grabbing the top positions at the helm of affairs cannot be equated to the gender equality, especially if the ground realities tell a different tale. There are numerous findings which found women are paid low-wages compared to their male counterparts even if these women have contributed the same amount of work and same number of working hours. Even though, government has fixed 10 % quota for women in government services, and 17% reserved seats in National and provincial Assemblies for women.  That segment remains underrepresented in almost every field. Women even do not have much say in the decisions that most matter to their lives.

To enhance the women to the status of equality, the governments should make holistic efforts in this regard. Legislation can be an important tool like provision of mandatory representation in the decision-making bodies such as boards constituted under different Acts, university syndicates, different commissions, etc. Through these measures, women will get mandatory participation in these bodies in addition to their normal participations by virtue of their offices. For this, legislators may take inspiration from “The Punjab Fair Representation of Women Act, 2014” which amends existing 66 Acts and Ordinances for providing mandatory representation to women. This writer has also the opportunity to see the draft of “The Sindh Reasonable Representation of Women Bill, 2018” which amends 117 existing Acts for that purpose. These are small but steps in the right direction.

It is also worth-mentioning here that the women being ensconced at the top-positions have a positive impact on the society in particular and to the world in general. For example, Prime minister Jacinda Ardern who emerged victorious in creating harmony in New Zealand by defeating the narrative of extremists and terrorists. She has indeed set an example to the world that women leading-from-the-front has a positive bearing in creating peace and harmony amongst the diverse communities even in the volatile times. From PM Ardern’s leadership at least four lessons can be drawn. One, a woman has characteristics of a mother and these characteristics do intervene even in the decision-making thus humane decision-making can always be expected from her.Two, woman prefers peace and harmony over violence and bigotry. Three, social cohesion is a doable job by means of empathy. Four, extremist tendencies can be defeated through peaceful means. Thus, women’s presence at the international relations’ complex chess-board will also have positive outcome.

Hence, it is important to give the women their due share as they are 50 % of the world’s population. Founder of the nation realising the importance of women emphasized “no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.” It is time to give women equal rights and to bring them into mainstream as equals to their male counterparts. Imagine the scenario if women are contributing to their full potential and the same is combined with man’s contribution. That means doubling the productivity and it will certainly do wonders for the social, political and economic development of world.

The writer is masters in Political Science from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and a development sector practitioner and can bee reached Amjadsiyal@hotmail.com