KARACHI: Among the many social inhibitions that restrict women empowerment, gender inequality fostered through parental upbringing is deemed to be the greatest challenge in the fight to end discrimination in society.
These views were reflected on the first day of the Pakistan Women Festival (PWF) held here on Saturday afternoon.
A panel discussion, ‘Breaking the ceiling of women empowerment in Pakistan’, was moderated by news anchor Uzma Alkarim with panellists retired Justice Majida Rizvi, secretary of human rights ministry Rabya Javeri, MPA Mehtab Rashidi and film producer Fiza Ali.
On observing a fewer number of females in the country’s workspaces despite a good ratio of girls acquiring professional degrees, the panel felt that parents did not encourage their daughters to pursue a career while the attitude was different toward sons. “I am told to divert my daughter’s attention from singing as a career because it is not appropriate for girls. This is wrong. We [parents] must let our kids have their own share of experiences,’’ shared Fiza Ali.
Contrasting with how societal thinking has changed over the years, Rabia Javeri pointed out that back in 1985 when she appeared for her Central Superior Services (CSS) exam there were only two female officers at the time. Now, she said, not only are 15 of the CSS toppers females but the force had also increased to 47 officers. “With the right social support and avenues, the female workforce can also serve as an investment in human capital,” added Ms Javeri.
While things may have evolved for the media and bureaucracy, the legal system is yet to break the ceiling for women. “Only seven to 12 females are working as judges in the country when the number of women lawyers is far greater. Why is the judiciary so rigid towards promoting women?” Uzma Alkarim questioned the first female judge of the country, retired Justice Rizvi.
“There is an evident bias in the legal fraternity,” regretted Justice Rizvi.
“The number of female lawyers in the Sindh district courts is highest across provinces. But ceiling is higher in the upper courts,” she revealed, saying that it was due to the consistent manoeuvring that no woman was promoted as a judge in the Supreme Court.
“Regardless, women who have worked on upper positions, including myself, have set an example of working equally capable as our male counterparts if not better,” Justice Rizvi said.
In context of increased humiliation of women in the political circuit, Mehtab Rashidi urged politicians to take a stand against use of derogatory remarks against women in parliament and elsewhere. “Irrespective of their party and views, personal shaming of women should not be tolerated. One woman’s insult should be treated as everyone’s insult. Character assassination is highly condemnable by both women and men,” she said.
Earlier, in her motivational speaker’s address, television director Sultana Siddiqui urged the media industry to promote a culture of tolerance on air.