Roundtable of SGGI-Working Group on ‘Women & Economy’IPSweb
Introducing the group and the topic in the first meeting of Working Group on Women and Economy, Director General IPS Khalid Rahman, said that generally two conflicting views are found in Pakistani society with respect to economic role of women: one section of society sees absolutely no role for women outside the premises of their homes, while other promotes an arrangement in which every woman is supposed to be earning member of the society. Different other approaches lying within two extremes can also be noticed.
Introducing the group and the topic in the first meeting of SGGI Working Group on Women and Economy, Director General IPS Khalid Rahman, said that generally two conflicting views are found in Pakistani society with respect to economic role of women: one section of society sees absolutely no role for women outside the premises of their homes, while other promotes an arrangement in which every woman is supposed to be earning member of the society. Different other approaches lying within two extremes can also be noticed.
Along with this debate, a transition in the society is taking place and since this transition is underway without evolving a strategy and determining its ultimate objectives, it, therefore, involves host of risks and threats. In the midst of such environment and a heated debate, this group aims at developing a document that provides a balanced, well thought out and realistic approach with practical and cognitive suggestions.
He underscored that the group should walk in the middle of the road and base its study on indigenous value framework of society so as to make its findings acceptable and applicable to larger sections of society. Present day situation and the mindset that has been developed in the contemporary society will have to be considered carefully to evolve more pragmatic recommendations.
Different points in the proposed outline and their order was discussed at length and it was found that by and large it covered all necessary aspects of the debate that needed to be considered. Preamble of the document was found appropriately drafted to form a reference point for the future deliberations.
It was emphasized that role of women in economic empowerment should be defined in such a way that it does not affect the family institution. Western societies have empowered women but at the cost of their family institution. This has disrupted whole fabric of those societies and there is a serious debate as to how to revert to the family institution. Family institution in our society too has undergone certain shocks but it remains intact and resilient; rather the society is protected by this institution. Family — undoubtedly a great strength in a situation where many institutions have weakened — needs to be maintained in the emerging needs and trends.
It was stressed that the group needed to discuss whether services rendered by women as their household chores or as part of their family activity in the rural areas could be quantified. It was also underscored that the determination of underlying objective and ultimate goal of economic activity in itself needed to be assessed to evaluate if the economic activity was meant for life or the life was meant for economic activity. It was viewed that this determination would formulate overall approach of a society towards life.
It was suggested that final document to be prepared by the working group should chalk out strategies for different levels and segments of society. Along with the recommendations to be prepared for executive and social reforms, legislation to facilitate implementation of these proposals should also be proposed.
It was also suggested that in view of the ideal being ‘interdependence’ empowerment of women should not necessarily mean economic independence. Similarly decision making should not be taken as if it was possible only in jobs and businesses. Women at home commonly have an important role in decision making for their families’ day to day affairs as well as for the future. She was, in this sense, seen as more powerful than that woman who works in office and looses her position in the home. Her role at home too should not be undermined as it plays important role in development of the nation as well as of economy.
It was also highlighted that engaging women in active pursuit of money would add burden on women in many cases. Home will remain her domain in most cases and even if she had spent her whole day at her job, she has to look after the affairs of her home and of her children. It was on the other hand suggested that if a better equation and mutual understanding is developed and maintained within family, then such problems could be tackled to a great extent.
It was pointed out that very few of such women who acquired professional education could actually render their services in their respective fields. Many highly educated ladies usually ended up in their household. It was, therefore suggested that such areas could be identified where enhanced participation of women could not only suit them but also add to the national economic life.
Rights of children in the families where both parents were working also came under discussion and it was opined that their problems should be considered at length.
It was iterated time and again that debate should focus on building an ideal society through strengthening of family institution. Struggle for women should in no case be directed against men or vice versa. Both genders, in fact, complement each other and collectively they contribute in establishing a healthy society.
Lower literacy rate, especially in female population was deplored but it was noted that situation was gradually improving. It was noted that current efforts to impart education strictly focused on women. It was stressed that educating women while keeping men illiterate was not only impractical but may also lead to disastrous consequences.
It was mentioned that government, in collaboration with national and international agencies, was offering certain incentives and facilities for females in small cities and rural areas to educate them and to enhance their role in the society. Efficiency and impact of these efforts was, however, still to be assessed.
It was maintained that concept of kafalah, given by Islam was a fair arrangement for women. Islamic social welfare had to be implemented in the society to ensure an all-round progress.
Consensus was found among members that though women can involve in economic activities and they should not be restricted from participating in economic activities, if they can and wish or need so, but family institutions should in no case be sacrificed.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009