Gender equality and equitable division of resources and opportunities among men and women remains elusive in Pakistan. While the importance of gender equality is well recognised globally, inequalities persist despite considerable work undertaken in different sectors, including health and education. These were the thoughts of experts gathered at the second conference on gender equality organised by Aga Khan University’s Working Group for Women.
Pakistan ranks as the world’s second-worst country in terms of the division of resources and opportunities between male and female populations according to The Global Gender Gap Report 2013, published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with faculty at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley; the study assessed 136 countries, representing more than 93 per cent of the world’s population.
“The political positioning and the agendas of feminism and the autonomous women’s movements have been systematically subsumed and relegated to the margins by the blatant ‘misuse’ of the concept of gender, a concept that ironically sought to enrich an understanding of patriarchy and sharpen the politics of the movement,” said Nighat Said Khan, Executive Director, Applied Socio-Economic Research (ASR) Resource Centre, Pakistan.
Highlighting the importance of education to gender equality, Jyotsna Jha Ananthamurthy, Director, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS), India said, “Gender equality in education also has the potential to be a means to larger changes and social transformation: enhanced empowerment of women and assertion of rights, greater and more informed political participation, higher participation in economic opportunities, increase in just and fair practices leading to more gender responsive and cohesive society”.
AKU has been at the forefront of promoting gender equality and today has a student body of which over 60 per cent are women. Further elaborating on the vision of AKU’s, Working Group for Women, a key representative Dr Nargis Asad said, “Working Group for Women is a democratic, participatory, interdisciplinary group committed to promoting a supportive environment to ensure progressive social change by creating awareness within and outside AKU by cultivating harmonious relationships, upholding equality and human dignity, empowering women and enabling them to develop their optimum potential for an improved quality of life. This can be achieved by creating awareness, conducting research, developing linkages with other organizations, promoting a supportive environment and contributing to policy reforms.”
Aga Khan University’s Working Group for Women formed in 1994 provides a platform for understanding gender and promoting the equal rights of women and girls and supports their full participation in the political, social and economic development of their communities.