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Gender disparities in rural Pakistan

By: Murtaza Talpur

Gender discrimination in education sector in addition persists in Pakistan especially amongst the poorest households because of poverty and social factors

To have an adequate appreciation of the far-reaching effects of disparities between women and men, we have to recognise the basic fact that gender inequality is not one affliction, but many with varying reach on the lives of women and men and of girls and boys. — Amartya Sen
Gender disparity is global phenomenon, but Pakistan has been stigmatised with issues related to women sanctity at either homes or work places. It needs urgent attention of governments and international community to overcome it before it becomes worse.

Articles 25, 27, 34, 35 and 37 of the constitution of Pakistan accept the gender equality that all men and women living have their equal rights and can enjoy their lives with dignity and self-respect. Islam ensures equal rights to women; the Holy Quran, verses 228, chapter 2, Surah Al-Baqra reads as under “And woman shall have rights, similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable, but men have a degree (of advantage) over them.” Nevertheless, our distorted conventional thoughts have created hindrances in the way of gender equality. We have made the rights of women more complicated and have confined many of them in the four walls of house. That has slowed down the overall progress and development in the country. A little nudge towards positive thinking for gender equality will be a thing that we had been searching for decades to make progress in various fields in our country.

Recently, the World Economic Forum has published a report on the Global Gender Gap (2012), which indicates that Pakistan stands 134 in the regional ranking out of 135 in gender gap. Pakistan moves down historically in the rankings from 112th, 126th, 132nd, 133rd and 134th respectively in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. This is due to worsening in the perceived wage equality and below the global average performance on all four sub indexes (economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment) and now occupies last spot in the Asia and Pacific region. Gender disparity in rural Pakistan is one of its most critical challenges.

The gender disparity persists in education, health, and all other socio-economic sectors. Nutrition also remains a major challenge, as 44 percent of children under five are underdeveloped physically. Despite the worrying state of education and health, especially amongst the poor, the resource allocation as a percentage of the GDP remained low. Pakistan is ranked as one of the lowest spenders on education and health in the region.

Gender discrimination in education sector in addition persists in Pakistan especially amongst the poorest households because of poverty and social factors but is virtually non-existent in rich households. Only 18 percent of women have received 10 years or of more schooling. There are 296,832 students enrolled in degree level educations in public sector institutions, and 62 percent of them are female while 38 percent are male students. But very small number (less than one percent) of girl students in rural institutions. In higher secondary education, only 16 percent of students from the total number are from rural areas and among them, the female ratio is quite low, and it remains so in the secondary and primary education sectors.

According to the UNDP report 2010, Pakistan ranked 120 in 146 countries in terms of the Gender-related Development Index (GDI), and in terms of the Gender Empowerment Measurement (GEM) ranking, it ranked 92 in 94 countries.

The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, “No nation can rise to the height of its glory unless its women are side by side.”

There is dire need to concentrate on education sector and to increase education budget. Economic as well as social development in the country follows by creating equal education opportunities for both women and men to reduce the gender gap. Once the problem of literacy is addressed, many problems will vanish from the horizon automatically. Women play a central role in making a home, community, a country, a nation or world. Therefore, it is now indispensable to advocate the gender rights, to curb gender disparity and put the nation toward on the track of prosperity and an advanced economy in the world.

Daily Times