–The sad reality behind why we still need to talk about women empowerment
LAHORE: The International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated globally on March 8, is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and pushes the idea of ‘Press for Progress’. To commemorate this day, Activ8 and The City School arranged an event to celebrate the progress made and to rise up to join in the conversation towards women empowerment.
International Women’s Day has been observed for well over a century, with the first March 8 IWD gathering supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland and with groups such as the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigning for equality even before that. Today, IWD is not only about a group of people but is about pressing for progress that has been astonishingly slow.
In a world that has taken years to realise the true potential and to start recognising women as equals and not as second-grade citizens, it is a sad reality that even in the 21st-century, women empowerment is a topic under debate.
ACTIV8 Lead Activator and Founder Umer Khan along with his team announced ‘We Rise’ – an initiative solely focused on women empowerment, in Lahore. While addressing the audience, Umer remarked that IWD is not just about what needs to be done, it is more important to consider what has already been done.
“It has been a slow but positive journey and we aim to achieve much more than what has already been done,” he said.
Punjab Commission on Women Chairperson Fauzia Waqar said, “The government is trying to empower the women but there is a long way to go. The gender barrier needs to be broken to prevent women from being perceived inferior.”
“It is not just about the discrimination and harassment but also about the simple steps such as accountability that need attention,” she said.
In a gathering of well-accomplished women, The City School Group HR and Strategy Director Sabahat Bukhari said that the general perception regarding gender roles needs to be changed in Pakistan. Primary education is generally associated as a woman dominated sector but the need of the hour is quantitative data and a clear plan for inclusion across various other sectors, including the industries and the government and not just education to overcome issues such as gender wage gap and sexual harassment, etc.
During the open forum, the event organisers held an interactive online survey in which approximately 66 per cent of the audience, mostly women, agreed that women themselves are predominantly the biggest barrier to their progress.
Commenting on the results of the survey, Omar Tauseef, a leading psychotherapist, argued that most women undermine themselves regardless of their skills and ability.
P&D Health, Nutrition and Population Board Member Dr Shabana Haider applauded the event as a great effort. She endorsed the need for enabling women to recognise their talents along with better initiatives for the inclusion of women in both the private and the public sector.
Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) CEO Jawad Khan apprised the audience about women in the labour force while inviting the corporate sector to work together to promote better and equal opportunities for women. He said, “The dynamics have changed, who thought women could become forklift operators and that is something we need to promote, together.”
It is worth mentioning that women are changing the landscape of the corporate culture and entrepreneurship in Pakistan and women as visionaries have a responsibility to deliver change but the regressive nature of our society is indeed a shameful sight.
During the open discussion, representatives from the corporate sector including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, Fauji Foods, Samsung and various other organisations shared their opinions on women empowerment. Together the audience highlighted the resilience of women and the need for better policies and environment for women to grow and flourish not only in Pakistan but internationally.