Women Empowerment in Pakistan

Aurat Foundation Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan A Scoping Study January 2011 This publication was produced as a scoping study by the Gender Equity Program (GEP) of Aurat Foundation with the financial support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) . The study was carried out by Ms. Rubina Saigol Copy Rights Aurat Publication and Information Services Foundation Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan A Scoping Study January 2011 This publication is made possible by the support of American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The contents are the sole responsibility of the Aurat Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or United States Government. Preface The Gender Equity Program (GEP) forms a substantive part of Aurat Foundation’s long-term commitment and action to serving the cause of women’s empowerment and advancement in Pakistan. GEP is a five-year USAID-supported grant-making program which aims to close the gender gap in Pakistan by facilitating behavioral change, enabling women to access information, resources and institutions, acquire control over their lives and improve societal attitudes towards women and their issues.
It is being implemented with the collaboration of Asia Foundation. The objectives of GEP are: • Enhancing gender equity by expanding women’s access to justice and women’s human rights • Increasing women’s empowerment by expanding knowledge of their rights and opportunities to exercise their rights in the workplace, community, and home • Combating gender-based violence • Strengthening the capacity of Pakistani organizations that advocate for gender equity, women’s empowerment and the elimination of gender-based violence GEP’s program matrix puts together the aims, requirements, activities and actions of each f the four objectives into a systematic grid that lists all the required outputs, the interventions for each output and the program targets for each intervention. The grants are designed to meet these agreed and approved interventions and outputs. In the first year GEP’s research initiatives include initial scoping desk studies to identify current status of knowledge and actions under each objective area and post-floods scenario, plus gaps that need to be addressed. These are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Effects of the 2010 Floods on Women in Pakistan Gender Based Violence in Pakistan Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan Capacity of Pakistani Organizations to Carry Out Gender Equity Initiatives Gender Equity – Justice and Governance in Pakistan Other studies in the first year of GEP include a comprehensive primary data baseline representative nationally and for each province, and several primary data based GBV studies covering sensitive areas, are underway. Indepth studies covering key government institutions to derive both policy and practical guidelines for further work under GEP are also being carried out.
This scoping study on Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan has formed the first step in helping GEP understand and define women’s economic and social empowerment in Pakistan and the issues that it entails, fine tune it’s designed inputs for the first three grant cycles in the first year of GEP and better design the proposed outputs, interventions and program targets for the subsequent years of GEP. It identifies current initiatives by local and international NGOs with respect to women’s empowerment, along with the Government machinery salient for issues such as women’s health, education, labor and employment.
It also identifies the key gaps in research and interventions and finally it presents a way forward, presenting conclusions and recommendations at the policy and response levels. Simi Kamal Chief of Party Gender Equity Program (GEP) Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan i Acknowledgments I would like to acknowledge the help and cooperation provided to me for this study by Amena Raja of the Asia Foundation, HRCP and AURAT Foundation for providing some of the materials that I used. I am grateful for their assistance in completing this project.
I thank all those involved directly or indirectly in guiding my efforts while acknowledging sole responsibility for errors of commission and omission. ii Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan Table of Contents Acknowledgments Table of Contents Acronyms and Abbreviations Executive Summary 1. Defining Empowerment 1. 1 The Marxist versus Poststructuralist Concept of Power 1. 2 Multi-dimensional Concepts of Power 1. 3 The Contextual Nature of Power 1. 4 Self-Empowerment versus External Sources of Power 1. 5 Instrumental View of Women’s Empowerment 1. 6 Measuring Empowerment 1. Economic and Social Empowerment 2. Economic Empowerment 2. 1 Women’s Land Rights, Food Security and Livelihoods 2. 2 Women and Employment in the Formal and Informal Sectors 3. Social Empowerment 3. 1 Women and Education 3. 2 Women and Health 4. Current Initiatives 4. 1 General Initiatives 4. 2 Land Rights, Agriculture and Livelihoods Initiatives 4. 3 Employment and Economic Empowerment Initiatives 4. 4 Education Initiatives 4. 5 Health Initiatives 5. Recommendations 5. 1 General Recommendations 5. 2 Land Rights, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Recommendations 5. Recommendations regarding Formal and Informal Employment 5. 4 Education Recommendations 5. 5 Health Recommendations 6. Government Machinery for Women’s Empowerment 7. Civil Society Organizations and Women’s Empowerment 7. 1 Federal Area 7. 2 Punjab 7. 3 Sindh 7. 4 Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa 7. 5 Balochistan 8. Donors and International NGOs Bibliography ii iii iv v 01 01 02 04 04 05 05 06 07 07 12 21 21 25 29 29 30 32 34 36 39 39 40 43 46 47 49 54 54 55 60 62 63 67 75 Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan iii Acronyms and Abbreviations
ABES AHAN CBO CEDAW CIDA DFID EOPI ERRA FATA GDI GDP GEM GGI GII GPI GRAP HDI ILO ITA LHV LHW LRSDA MDG MDG MoWD NAVTEC NCSW NGO NPA PILER PRSP PSDP PVDP SAHE SAWM SCSPEB SAHE SAWM SCSPEB SDPI SPO TRIP UN UNDP UNESCO UNFPA UNICEF UNIFEM UPE USAID WEMC WHO WTO WWHL WWO Adult Basic Education Society Adolescent Health Awareness Network Community Based Organization Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Canadian International Development Agency United Kingdom Department for International Development Employees Old Age Benefits Institution Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority Federally Administered Tribal Areas Gender-related Development Index Gross Domestic Product Gender Empowerment Measure Gender Gap Index Gender Inequality Index Gender Parity Index Gender Reform Action Plan Human Development Index International Labor Organization Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi Lady Health Visitors Lady Health Workers Lower Sindh Rural Development Association Millennium Development Goal Millennium Development Goal Ministry of Women Development National Vocational and Technical Education Commission National Commission on the Status of Women Non-Governmental Organization National Plan of Action Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Public Sector Development Program Participatory Village Development Program Society for the Advancement of Education South Asia Women in the Media Society for the Community Support for Primary Education, Balochistan Society for the Advancement of Education South Asia Women in the Media Society for the Community Support for Primary Education, Balochistan Sustainable Development Policy Institute Strengthening Participatory Organizations Trade-Related Intellectual Property agreement United Nations United Nations Development Program United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization United Nations Population Fund United Nations Children’s Fund United Nations Development Fund for Women Universal Primary Education United States Agency for International Development Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts World Health Organization World Trade Organization Women Workers’ Helpline Working Women’s Organization iv Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan Executives Summary Women’s empowerment is a complex, multi-dimensional, fluid and emerging concept within feminism and development literature. It has economic, political, social, cultural, religious, personal, psychological and emotional elements. Empowerment appears to be context-specific and has multiple determinants. Women are capable of empowering themselves while external actors and agencies can create supportive environments.
Women’s empowerment is defined in a wide variety of ways some of which include access to material resources such as land, money, credit and income, availability of decent employment opportunities that involve good working conditions, access to power through representation in political and decisionmaking bodies, the freedom to make choices in life, enjoyment of basic rights granted in the constitution and international agreements, equal access to quality education and health facilities, mobility to be able to access various facilities, and control over one’s body, sexuality and reproductive choices. Empowerment is believed to be the road to women’s own equality, rights and fulfillment, while the instrumental view regards women’s empowerment as the means to a better family, economy, society and nation. Empowerment is not unidirectional and can also be diminished with a change in contextual variables. It has to be continually reiterated and established to prevent reversal. Empowerment is not easily amenable to measurement and existing measures are inadequate.
A multivariate analysis is required that encompasses a multiplicity of variables and measures empowerment in ways unique to the situation. The ownership of land is believed to be one of the foremost conditions of women’s empowerment. Women do not generally own land and when they do they seldom exercise effective control over it in terms of decision-making. Socio-cultural, traditional, emotional and legal constraints prevent them from demanding land rights. Male relatives usually control women’s land or strike a bargain to protect and provide for them in return for relinquishing their rights to land. Women seldom receive property rights granted to them by law and religious sanction. They have little access to legal redress in case of being forced o give up their land and often tend to fear social censure and ostracism for demanding land rights. They are also liable to be subjected to physical, emotional and psychological violence when they demand land rights. Even where male relatives recognize women’s right to land, they do not take measures to ensure this right for them. Women are more likely to receive land where it has less economic value than in regions where land is a highly valued and commercial commodity. Land rights are also deeply linked with food security but women often do not have access to credit or extension services as agricultural policies are dominated by a patriarchal bias.
Women, therefore, find it hard to access agricultural inputs such as seed and fertilizer and irrigation water to enable them to cultivate their own land. They are not represented on water boards and irrigation bodies. Women’s contribution in the fields of fisheries and forestry have not been given due recognition by the government. Rural women are dependent upon forests for firewood and fuel but their views do not enter the national and global discussions on forest management and preservation. The introduction of commercial fishing and the permission to large companies to use trawlers for fishing have impoverished the fishing communities with women’s roles becoming diminished.
With fishing having become a major industry, women’s roles in net weaving and earning a livelihood have become redundant. Women wash and clean shrimps in conditions which cause serious health damage as they are not supplied with proper clothing or environment to do the work in safety. Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan v With regard to paid employment women suffer in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy. There are very few women in the formal sector where conditions of work are marginally better. However, even in this sector, workers, both men and women, seldom enjoy the benefits of minimum wage, medical facilities, accident insurance, old age benefits, limitation of working hours and transport.
The great majority of workers, especially women, are not registered with institutions such as the Employees Old Age Benefits Institution so that even workers in the formal sector are denied the rights granted to them. Although Pakistan has signed ILO Convention 100 regarding equal pay for equal work, in practice employers find all kinds of ways to circumvent laws. Women seldom join trade unions which are heavily male-dominated. Families, employers and socio-cultural constraints discourage them from engaging in union activities. There is a preponderance of women in the informal sector of work where they constitute a majority. This is the sector in which women are most vulnerable and highly exploited.
This sector involves parttime, temporary, casual and contractual work where there is no minimum wage, security of employment, health benefits or any of the facilities that are normally associated with work in the formal sector. A large number of women are home-based workers who have no access to the market and depend upon the middleman to market their products. They have no knowledge of the market and end up selling their work cheaply. Women normally work very long hours in conditions that lead to health issues. Such workers are often invisible and their work is not recognized in official statistics. Since many of them work from home, it is difficult to organize into collectives or unions to demand their rights. With regard to the social sectors such as education and health women suffer on account of their lower position in the social hierarchy.
Education suffers from a chronic lack of funding being generally around 2 per cent of the GDP. The meager amounts are consumed by buildings, salaries and running expenses with no money left for educational development. Pakistan is way below the MDG for education and the allocation is far less than the Education Policy promise of 7 per cent of the GDP. As a result, government schools are in a dilapidated condition and the state of teaching is abysmal. There is increasing privatization of education in spite of the inclusion of education among fundamental rights. Poor parents still prefer to send their sons to school as they are perceived as future breadwinners.
Even though girls perform well at the primary levels, as they reach puberty they are removed from schools due to early marriage, fear of security, lack of transport and mobility, and sociocultural and traditional beliefs. At the higher levels of education women perform better than men but higher levels are usually available only in urban areas and rural women are at a greater disadvantage as compared to their urban sisters. The curriculum and textbooks are full of bias and not conducive to women’s empowerment as they tend to reproduce the patriarchal gender division of labor and roles. Health has received less than 1 per cent of the GDP and is a heavily donor-dependent area.
Women, as end users of health facilities suffer due to lack of access to good health facilities. Rural health facilities such as Basic Health Units and Rural Health Centres can often be inaccessible for women lack mobility. Lady Health Workers are unable to reach women in remote areas due to the absence of transport and safety. Women suffer due to health problems on account of lack of reproductive choices in terms of the number and spacing of children. Families enforce such decisions upon them, and frequent pregnancies occur in the effort to produce male offspring. Women suffer violence at the hands of family members which sometimes mutilates them seriously and occasionally even leads to death.
The constant fear of violence, tension, depression and worry leads to a plethora of emotional and psychological problems for which women in rural areas are taken to pirs for supernatural cures. v Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan Women’s lack of power within families and the denial of their right to make choices results in a number of health problems. Women are often malnourished as they have lesser access to food resources than their male kin. Additionally, extremism, militancy and displacement exacerbate women’s emotional, psychological and physical health. Private health services are too expensive for them and the state pays virtually no attention to women’s health as they are considered subordinate, less important and dispensable.
A number of initiatives have been taken by the government, donors and non-governmental organizations to increase women’s empowerment and ensure their legal, economic and political equality. However, since the problems are complex, multi-dimensional and overwhelming it will take a long time for women to achieve empowerment and equality. Recommendations to address the issues have been provided in terms of recognizing and ensuring women’s land rights, their access to extension services, transport, mobility and social services. It is suggested that all workers should be registered to end informalization so that they can gain access to labor rights.
All discriminatory laws should be amended and women’s equality as enshrined in the constitution should be ensured. The Home-based workers policy should be adopted by the government and the ILO Convention 177 on HBWs should be signed. Allocations for education and health should be enhanced with a special emphasis on women’s education and health. As th agriculture, labour, health and education are all now provincial issues with the passage of the 18 amendment, it needs to be ensured that fundamental rights of women are not violated as the provinces devise policies and strategies for these areas. Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan vi 1. Defining Empowerment
Women’s empowerment is a complex and evolving concept that is constantly being defined, re-defined, elaborated, sharpened and clarified. It is deeply inter-linked with gender equality and equity which appear to be the ultimate goals of women’s empowerment. It has been associated with the structural transformation of society through land and labor reforms, educational opportunities, access to resources, autonomy, the right to decision-making, control over fertility and women’s own control over their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. Empowerment is contextdependent: and one vague and abstract notion of empowerment cannot be imposed on all contexts across space and time.
It is a malleable concept which can signify different things in varying and multiple contexts: thus it eludes a clear and concise definition. Empowerment must also be conceptualized through women’s own perspectives and lives, and not as the imposition of an urban middle-class notion of rural women occupying a culturally different space. over those below, was seriously challenged by the poststructuralist movement in the 1980s when the French historian, Michel Foucault, introduced the idea of power as diffuse and dispersed across social spaces, and produced at several sites rather than existing in a singular vertical dimension (Foucault, 1972, 1980).
Foucault suggested that power is exercised at many points through the application of expert knowledge derived through the social, medical and political disciplines (1979, 1988). In this discourse power is not an object that can be possessed by an individual or class, but a process that can occur in any situation; for example, the therapy situation where the expert produces power over the patient. The ultimate objective of the diffuse power is to create docile and disciplined bodies, whose conformity to established social norms and conventions can be ensured through clinical and disciplinary interventions rather than direct force. The debate between the Marxists and poststructuralists, as well as postmodernists, rages on.
Marxists assert that certain classes exercise power through the state in order to further their own interests of capital accumulation. They cite the domination of global corporations in the current version of capitalism as evidence that power resides with those who own and control the knowledge-making industry, such as the corporate media and publishing houses who produce educational curricula. The power to produce new discourses, therefore, still resides with those with the means and methods to produce, package, distribute, and circulate knowledge. 1. 1 The Marxist versus Poststructuralist Concept of Power The notion of power has undergone radical transformations over time.
The Marxist conception of power resides in the idea that the dominant social classes in society exercise power over the subordinate and oppressed classes until they are overthrown through social conflict, and new hegemonic classes emerge. The traditional concept of power, as exercised by someone above Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan 01 Poststructuralist feminists, however, seized upon the Foucauldian re-definition of power to contest the idea that power can only be exercised over someone. The idea that power can be a positive quality, which can be produced by anyone, resonates with the notion that one can have power with rather than over another.
This concept provides women with an entry point into the discourses of power. It opens up power, and makes it potentially available to women. In other words, empowerment becomes a possibility. through access to health, education and nutrition, but combines the access-based argument with human rights and an increase in social, economic and political equity. A major access-based definition of women’s empowerment appears in Pakistan’s Medium Term Development Framework 2005–2010, which states: Empowerment encompasses access to options, information, education and resources; decision-making power and authority; and control over one’s life. (Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan 2005).
Naila Kabeer elaborates upon the multidimensional nature of empowerment, and its manifold manifestations, in her analysis of the third Millennium Development Goal (MDG) related to gender equality (Kabeer 2005). She envisages women’s empowerment as encompassing greater access to knowledge, social and economic resources, coupled with greater autonomy in economic and political decision-making. Kabeer thus adds autonomy and decision-making power to the idea of access to economic, political and social resources, including food, health care, education, credit, employment, ownership of assets, and access to media. Going further, Kabeer also seeks alteration in the sexual division of labor, a key area of feminist discourse.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) drew upon a comprehensive framework of women’s empowerment to develop principles which include the following: high-level leadership for gender equality; respect and support for human rights and nondiscrimination; ensuring health, safety and well-being of all workers; promoting education, training and professional development for women; implementing enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women; and promoting equality through community initiatives and advocacy (UNIFEM 2010). It is apparent that the concept of women’s empowerment is broadening and expanding and, in the process, encompassing ever increasing areas 1. 2 Multi-Dimensional Concepts of Power
CARE, the international non-governmental organization (NGO) provides a definition of empowerment that encompasses three dimensions: individuals, structures and relationships. According to CARE: Individuals must gain power to change and effect change; structures that dictate social, economic and political power-holding must be altered; and human relationships must be created or modified to support change (CARE, “Women’s Empowerment”). Elaborating upon this three-dimensional model of power and transformation, CARE asserts that excluding the lives of poor women on the basis of caste, race or other markers of social differentiation is disempowering, and a change in all three spheres (individual, structures and relationships) is a necessary pre-requisite for women’s empowerment.
Another holistic definition of women’s empowerment is provided by the World Economic Forum, which includes the idea of fundamental human rights in its formulation of women’s empowerment: The past three decades have witnessed a steadily increasing awareness of the need to empower women through measures to increase social, economic and political equity, and broader access to fundamental human rights, improvement in nutrition, basic health and education (Lopez-Claros and Zahidi 2005). This definition incorporates social empowerment 02 Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan of women’s equality at the legal, political, economic and social levels. However, this process of broadening and deepening may also contribute to its vagueness, as it comes to mean different things to different people. Any policy intervention, therefore, cannot be a fragmented one. Unless interventions are holistically planned, empowerment may not occur in all areas of women’s lives. Women’s empowerment in one sphere does not necessarily lead to empowerment in others.
In Pakistan’s context, specifically, there is a yawning gap between constitutional aspirations and ground realities, particularly in rural areas where conservative communities exercise enormous control over women’s choices. A systematic transformation is required, not just in individual institutions, but specifically those that support patriarchal structures and systems. This means that broad policy interventions are required at the household level if empowerment is to be achieved (Chaudhary and Nosheen 2009). Here it is important to insert a caveat. Some of the assumptions of feminists and development practitioners alike have not been borne out by experience and study. Although it is useful to plan, design and implement interventions, empowerment may not occur or take shape as envisaged.
The process is affected by so many factors and beset by chance events, such sudden changes in political alignments, that a straightforward relation between policy interventions and outcomes cannot be guaranteed. Here it is pertinent to refer to Bushra Zulfiqar’s incisive analysis which acknowledges that empowerment is a complex process and deeply embedded in social and cultural constructs which define its scope and limitations (2010). Women’s empowerment is often equated with the capacity to make choices in life, and it is assumed that economically independent women are capable of making choices for themselves. In reality, Zulfiqar argues, the exercise of choice is limited by many factors, in particular the gendered perceptions of masculine and feminine: 1
My key argument is that economic participation alone does not lead to women’s empowerment. Access to labor market does not improve the status of women within the household hierarchy and does not influence the power relations in their favor (Zulfiqar 2010). This argument is echoed in Manisha Desai’s critique of the concept of empowerment and the urban, elite and formal labor bias of the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Gender Empowerment Measure (2010). 1 Desai argues that a decrease in the measured gender gap does not translate into gender equality. She points out that positive trends in gender empowerment are often accompanied by unintended negative consequences of development.
This has been demonstrated in Pakistan, where sometimes violence is unleashed upon women who try to empower themselves legally or economically, for example, when they demand their share in property, or try to contract a marriage of choice. An understanding of the complex, malleable, contradictory and multi-dimensional nature of empowerment is necessary before planning interventions. It must also be remembered that empowerment is not a fixed point at which a woman may one day arrive. It is an ongoing process which lasts an entire lifetime. Nor is it necessarily a forward moving process: empowerment may be reversed if the social, economic and political milieu, such as might occur with the entry of a new, conservative government.
This was demonstrated in December 2010, when in Pakistan the Federal Shariat Court declared certain sections of the Women’s Protection Act 2006 contrary to the Shariah and the Constitution, and restored the overriding power of the Hudood Ordinances (including the highly discriminatory Zina Ordinance), thereby reversing the few protections gained by women after decades of struggle. In sum, women’s empowerment is a fluid process that is not unidirectional. It cannot be taken for granted, and has to be strived for continuously over the entire lifep. The Gender Empowerment Measure of inequality in political and economic participation/ decision-making and in power of resources is further discussed in Section 1. 6. Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan 03 1. 3 The Contextual Nature of Power It has been widely acknowledged that the concept of women’s empowerment is complex and open to multiple interpretations depending upon the context.
For example, Mason and Smith in a study of five Asian countries found that gender relations are heavily influenced by community norms and values (2003). They found that community in the five countries studied was a far better predictor of women’s empowerment than individual traits. It was found that empowerment is inherently multidimensional and complex as women may be simultaneously empowered in some spheres and not in others (Mason and Smith 2003, also Kishore and Gupta 2004). Mason and Smith concluded that community norms and values are serious determinants of women’s empowerment in given contexts, and must be altered if meaningful change is envisioned.
Another study that contextualized the notion of women’s empowerment was conducted by the Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts (WEMC) project, in which the Pakistani NGO Shirkat Gah was a partner. This project examined the context-specific ways in which women take initiatives to empower themselves by overcoming economic, legal and political obstacles, including challenging the use of culture and religion to legitimize oppressive practices. 2 In this project, power is considered the driving force that excludes and marginalizes individuals and groups. Borrowing from the Foucauldian notion of power as dispersed and diffuse, it is seen as permeating individuals, groups and societies, instead of emanating from a fixed point (Hebert 2010).
In her study of gender, religion and the pursuit of justice, Farida Shaheed suggests that in Pakistan, Islam has changed from a purely religious identity to a system that dictates all aspects of life (2009). Shaheed asserts that the real force that disempowers women in the name of culture, religion and tradition is the fusing of politics and religion with the objective of capturing state power and exerting political influence. This 2 argument is supported by Nathalene Reynolds who argues that issues “specific to the Pakistani context, in which governments during brief democratic interludes have struggled to keep the social structure intact” must be examined in order to understand the issues of gender equality in the country (Reynolds n. d. ). 1. 4 Self-Empowerment versus External Sources of Power
The idea that women take initiatives to empower themselves instead of relying solely on external forces is upheld by Bushra Zulfiqar who argues that empowerment is a highly relative and complex concept with different articulations for different individuals (2010). Zulfiqar believes it is not possible to address the issue of empowerment at an individual level, and that empowerment is a state of mind which has to come from within and cannot be granted by any outside actor. External actors like the government, civil society and donors can help create an enabling environment for women to exercise choices in life. Their role can be to provide women with a social space that is free of violence, fear and discrimination.
Women’s capacity to exercise choices is constrained by gendered conceptions of masculinity and femininity in given contexts and, as Zulfiqar argues, women’s empowerment can ultimately challenge and alter patriarchal beliefs and institutions that perpetuate such stereotypes and thereby reinforce inequality. In her analysis of the politics of empowerment, Bushra Zulfiqar points out an important area that has been rendered invisible because of the prejudices and silence surrounding the issue. This is the all-important sphere of reproductive choices, which are often controlled by families, with women having little say over their own bodies and sexuality.
Women in specific contexts are not allowed to control contraceptive usage, fertility and childbirth. Herein resides one of the biggest sources of disempowerment. This argument is supported by Lori Adelman who asserts that at the heart of equality and empowerment lie a person’s fundamental right Information about the project, its aims and theoretical framework is available at the project website, www. wemc. com. hk. 04 Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan and ability to control her own body, including her sexuality (2010). Adelman argues that without this right, women risk being unable to fo to schools because of being forced into an early marriage or sexually harassed, raped or expelled on the basis of being pregnant.
On account of religious beliefs and cultural prejudices women’s sexual and reproductive rights are often shrouded in silence. instrumental rationale for any right may be ease access to such rights in contexts where resistance is observed. Nonetheless, such arguments become self-defeating for they perpetuate the idea that empowerment is not vital for women’s own sakes, but because it serves some purpose that is wider and external to their interests. 1. 5 Instrumental View of Women’s Empowerment 1. 6 Measuring Empowerment In addition to arguments based on access, equality and rights, the literature on women’s empowerment also reveals instrumental arguments based on the logic that women’s empowerment is not an end in itself, but the means to achieving other ends.
For example, the international organization, CARE, seeks to empower women as agents of change. It is argued that once women are supported and empowered, the whole society benefits. The World Bank takes a similar view in its assertion that empowerment has long been legitimized in development discourse, not just for the well-being of women, but also for its positive impact upon families (Mason and King 2001). This view is akin to the argument often advanced for women’s education: if a woman is educated, the whole family and society reap the benefits. This tendency to view women’s empowerment as the means to some external goal is discernible in the argument that women’s empowerment leads to economic growth (Jahangir 2008).
The propensity to regard women’s rights as an instrument of achieving other objectives is also perceptible in the perspective of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that “women’s empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all” (UNFPA n. d. ). Instrumental reasoning for women’s empowerment thus includes, but is not limited to, ideas based on societal benefit, positive impact upon families, economic growth and sustainable development. Instrumental arguments diverge from those based on rights and equality, which emphasize empowerment as the basis of women’s equality and their enjoyment of fundamental rights. An A problematic aspect of women’s empowerment is the question of how to effort to measure and quantify this abstract and intangible concept.
Measurement indices, while usefully providing a quick picture of a phenomenon, tend to be limited for they reduce vast and complex data to a few measurable variables. They tend to leave out the telling details, subjective experiences and ontological issues that enrich the total picture. Nevertheless, measuring empowerment is helpful for policymakers to enable them to tailor interventions based on the broad picture that emerges. The Gender Gap Index (GGI) is used to measure the extent of inequality between men and women by measuring the gender gaps in particular contexts. The four aspects of this index include economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.
In 1995, the UNDP introduced two measures of human development to highlight the status of women. The Genderrelated Development Index (GDI) measured the same variables as the Human Development Index (HDI) but underscored the inequality in achievement between men and women in the three areas of life expectancy, education, and estimated earned income. The second, the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), was a measure of women’s participation in the economic and political life of the country, and measured inequality in the three areas of political participation and decision-making, economic participation and decision-making, and power over economic resources.
In 2010, these were superseded by the Gender Inequality Index (GII), “a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievements between women and men in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan 05 and the labor market,” which was intended to capture the disadvantages faced by women and girls in these three central spheres of existence, and thus “better expose differences in the distribution of achievements between women and men” (UNDP 2010). Nevertheless, while such indices may be useful for technocratic interventions, they fail to reveal the invisible and hidden dimensions of empowerment and women’s daily lived experience.
In an attempt to measure women’s empowerment as a variable in international development, Malhotra, Schuler and Boender (2003) proposed six dimensions of empowerment: economic, sociocultural, familial-interpersonal, legal, political and psychological. These measurement dimensions suggest the complexity of the concept of empowerment, and the difficulty in capturing its essence in varying and multiple contexts. Each dimension is so deeply inter-linked with all others that even identifying relationships between them is a herculean task. The difficulties of measuring such a malleable, fluid, and fragmented, concept were noted in a study of the determinants of empowerment in Southern Punjab (Chaudhary and Nosheen 2009). The study’s authors argued that questions of how empowerment is to be measured remain unanswered, and no rigorous method has been devised.
They pointed out that there is a proliferation of outcomes, but no clear form of measurement, and it is difficult to specify exactly what the determinants of empowerment are in a given context. In Pakistan, for example, they pointed out that women’s empowerment has regional and religious attributes which interact with patriarchal traditions of women’s subordination, which in turn lead to malnutrition and shortfalls in women’s education. Chaudhary and Nosheen concluded that since the notion of empowerment varies from region to region and culture to culture, its determinants and measuring methods must also vary. Further complexities arise from the fact that while household and family relations disempower women, they do not disempower other groups.
These authors suggest that a multivariate analysis is required, since their results showed a great number of factors had a statistically significant relationship on the level of empowerment. In the context of their study, factors included the joint family system, women doing paid work, women having a bank account, women’s access to the media, their participation in excursion activities, women’s age, marital status, caste, religion, and whether or not they subscribed to an Islamic viewpoint. The large number of determinants of empowerment in varying contexts is daunting. Therefore, any measure is necessarily limited and cannot capture the full extent of women’s empowerment at all levels and in every social, cultural, economic and political context. 1. 7 Economic and Social Empowerment
While it is difficult to derive a singular overarching meaning of empowerment from the vast literature on the subject, the following elements of women’s empowerment may be derived from the existing literature: ? empowerment, which includes Economic women’s land rights, livelihoods and labor in the formal and informal sectors; ? Social empowerment, which includes equal access to education and health care for women; and, ? empowerment, which includes Political women’s representation on elected bodies. This report is focused on economic and social empowerment, and deals with each component separately. Political empowerment is covered by another study in this series.
In the concluding sections of this scoping study, key current initiatives have been identified to provide an overview of the field, recommendations compiled from various sources have been consolidated, and detailed lists of organizations, donors and government agencies working on women’s empowerment have been identified. 06 Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan 2. 2. 1 Economic Empowerment women should not own or control land due to customs, traditions, and a perceived lack of competency to manage land. The majority, however, believed that women could own as well as manage land, either alone or with male help. Khattak et al argue that this acknowledgement of women’s right to land has not been translated into practical action, and women’s share in family inheritance has not been ensured. Men in areas where land is highly productive do not support women’s right to own land, while in areas where it is not a premium commodity, they are supportive.
Even men who support women’s right to land in principle usually do not intend to give their female relatives their share of property, as in their view it would alter social relations where men are providers and women dependants. All the women in the SDPI study expressed their desire to own land because of the respect, honor, status, and economic power its possession confers upon the owner. However, they were concerned that this might not actually happen because of the patriarchal bargain wherein men are perceived as protectors and providers in return for women relinquishing their ownership rights. The absence of social protection systems leave women dependent upon their male kin and local, customary, and personalized systems of protection, arbitration, and dispute settlement.
Women place family interest before personal interest, and tend to see themselves as an integral part of the family, not as separate legal entities. Frequently, they willingly cede land and its control to their husbands, brothers, and sons; however, indirect forms of violence are also used to force Women’s Land Rights, Food Security and Livelihoods 2. 1. 1 Women and Land Rights In recent years, there has been a growing understanding of the intersection between women’s land rights, food security, and livelihoods. Where once this issue was widely neglected in Pakistan, and did not feature in the land reforms of 1959, 1972 and 1977, it has lately spawned several studies on women and land rights.
A landmark study on women and land rights conducted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) was premised on the assumption that if women were to obtain their share of land rights, it would not only provide an impetus to their own economic empowerment, it would collectively empower both men and women (Khattak, Brohi and Anwar 2010). It was assumed that land as an economic resource and a source of power and status would contribute significantly to women’s empowerment if distributed by the state in an equitable manner. The SDPI study found that land is viewed differently across geographical regions and in diverse social contexts. Men view it as a source of status and power, and as the basis on which they could gain access to credit and other facilities, and for commercial transactions. Khattak et al found that over 89 percent of men surveyed across field sites supported women’s Shariah-based right to land.
Some believed that women’s ownership of land was a fundamental right. On the other hand, 20 percent argued that Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan 07 them to relinquish their rights to male relatives. Women were found to be generally unaware of the laws and constitutional provisions that protect their rights. They tend to view the state as a distant and abstract entity that had not penetrated their lives. Therefore most women turn to personalized local systems to protect their interests. In a study of women’s access and right to land conducted by Shirkat Gah, it was found that women’s land rights were inextricably linked to access and control over assets (Mumtaz and Noshirwani 2007).
It was found that the perception of women’s low status and subordinate position in society prevents them from gaining their rights. Customary practices, buttressed by social structures, restrict women’s mobility, making active control over resources difficult. Even when the owners of land, women lack control owing to lack of autonomy and dependence upon male kin. This study also revealed a widespread lack of knowledge and information of women’s land rights and absence of social legitimacy for the exercise of such rights. Corruption and the long, complicated process of accessing and ensuring the implementation of law further complicate the picture. Additionally, discriminatory laws against women reinforce the notion of their secondary and subordinate status in society.
Mumtaz and Noshirwani found that when women make a claim to rights, inadequate support structures and mechanisms lead to threats of violence. They pointed out the indifference of legislators, policymakers and politicians towards the issue of land rights for women, and the severe dearth of data for advocacy. According to the SDPI Country Gender Profile, female ownership of land is extremely limited, and data on ownership of land or access to credit is not available (2008). In 2001, the Pakistan Rural Household Survey found that women owned only 2. 8 percent of the plots, even though 67 percent of the villages surveyed asserted that women maintained the right to inherit land (cited in World Bank 2005).
The SDPI Country Gender Profile reported that barriers to women’s ownership of land include family pressure, fear of social boycott; dependence upon male relatives to deal with the outside world, legal complexities, fear of violence, customary tribal laws, and discriminatory parallel judicial systems such as the jirga and panchayat, which are now labeled Alternate Dispute Resolution Systems. Although the Constitution affirms gender equality in Article 25, and the country’s legal system upholds inheritance rights for women, lack of political will and discriminatory cultural practices deprive women of land. In areas where the custom of bride price prevails, women themselves are seen as property and commercial commodities.
Furthermore, illegal property grabbing by in-laws upon the death of the husband prevents women from receiving their share. Most formal courts take a very long time to settle inheritance cases, a further discouraging factor for women. Women’s land rights are closely linked to their social, economic and political status in society. The finding that women fail to make claims for their land rights for fear of social censure, and that they see themselves as integral parts of the family instead of as independent and separate legal entities, was borne out in a study of struggle of tenant farmers for land in ten districts of the Punjab (Saigol 2010b).
This study of the Anjumane-Mazareen movement focused on the role of women leaders, and found that even when women are in the forefront of the struggle for land rights and take an active part in fighting the might of a militarized state, they fight for the protection of their sons’, husbands’, fathers’, brothers’, and other male relatives’ property. Indeed, it had not even occurred to the strident women leaders of the movement that they should fight for joint ownership of the land once the state agreed to grant land to the tenant farmers. Upon being asked about registering the land in their own names or joint ownership, they appeared to like the idea and expressed enthusiasm, but simultaneously disclosed that they could not see themselves as separate from the family and community. The male tenant farmers interviewed also supported the idea, but did not do anything practical to ensure their womenfolk had this right.
It appears that the militant resistance offered to military and state might by these women was an extension of the protective 08 Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan mother role women are conditioned to play in society (Saigol 2010b). 2. 1. 2 The Right to Food As noted earlier, there is an interrelationship between women’s land rights and the right to food. According to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the right to food, globally women cultivate 50 percent of all food grown (UN Human Rights Council 2010). Yet, women constitute 70 percent of the world’s hungry, and are disproportionally affected by malnutrition, poverty and food insecurity.
The Human Rights Council observes that “women’s access to control and ownership of land or property are crucial for the purpose of strengthening their security and livelihood. It is important to understand the multiple factors – law, inheritance, marital status and agrarian reform policies – that impede women’s equal access to land and the way these affect women by virtue of their gender at the level of individual, community and nation” (ibid. ) In spite of constituting the majority of the agricultural workforce and production, it is estimated that women have access to or control over only 5 percent of the land globally. In Pakistan, the percentage of female-headed households is regionally among the highest, at an estimated 25 percent of total rural households (Food and Agriculture Organization 1995).
A study on female-headed households and urban poverty in Pakistan found that 31 percent of the respondents were the only breadwinners in their families, and 8 percent of the households had only female earners while 14 percent had females as the major earners (Mohiuddin 1989). These women range from single parents, widows and wives of migrant workers, to women migrant workers. Rural households continue to acquire lands through inheritance practices based on customary systems that reaffirm women’s unequal access and control over land. Since land acquisition is mediated through male kin, women’s land rights are negotiate within a framework of unequal relations of gender, and female entitlement is not a recognized social value. Cultural and social norms ensure that household distribution of resources is uneven in rural areas.
The Food and Agriculture Organization warns that in developing countries “twice as many women suffer from malnutrition as men, and girls are twice as likely to die from malnutrition as boys” (Food and Agriculture Organization n. d. ). The UN Human Rights Council asserts that women improve the food security of their households through their access to incomegeneration activities and ensuring food availability. The right to control, access and manage land is tied to a woman’s right to exercise financial independence, earn a livelihood and subsequently provide livelihood for herself and her household. Gender-blind agrarian reform policies continue to exclude women from entitlement to land.
Women, who are responsible for the procurement and preparation of food, are most directly affected by food shortages in a country where agriculture is the backbone of the economy and women are integrally linked to it. One revealing incident highlighting the central role of women in providing food security occurred in Karachi in 2009, when around 15 women and girls were killed trying to grab a single bag of wheat flour which was being distributed free. This tragic incident brought to light the desperation of the poor, especially women, for one of the most basic rights – the right to life. 2. 1. 3 Women and Agriculture Women form a significant part of the agricultural workforce.
According to SDPI’s Country Gender Profile (2008), women in rural areas engage in agricultural activity as unpaid family helpers, and are not registered as workers. Women receive hardly any technical knowhow to enable them to increase their income generation capacities. While 38. 4 percent of men in the labor force are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, the figure is 69. 9 percent for women. Several reforms are oriented towards distributing 10–20 acres of land to women to grow food, which is too large a holding for women to cultivate themselves (Sadeque and Hisham 2009). Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan 09 Even with family labor, women can, at best, manage between two and four acres of land.
If larger holdings are distributed without proper storage facilities and mechanisms of institutional support, such as microfinance, women are not able to cultivate the land. Most agricultural extension services and programs are oriented only towards men. Extension service departments are not aware of the specific needs of women and base their recommendations on commercial and large-scale industrial farming. Gender specific agricultural tasks, such as seed preparation, receive little support from extension workers. Similarly, raising and tending livestock also falls primarily to women who have no extension support and cannot market their products due to diminished access to markets.
Even in cases where posts for female extension workers have been created, they are lying vacant on the pretext that there is a dearth of qualified female staff, though it has been pointed out to authorities that this might be due to the lack of lodging, security and transport (Sadeque and Hisham 2009). Several contradictions beset agricultural policies and practices. Even though agricultural policies pay lip service to the inclusion of women, they promote cash crops for export, and fail to focus on anyone who holds less than five acres of land – women invariably fall in this category. With this emphasis on large landholdings, many women cannot be recognized or registered as farmers. Women are involved in cash crop farming only as pickers, not as growers.
They are therefore not recognized as farmers, but as rural women working on agricultural land. As Sadeque and Hisham point out, even the agricultural census does not consider women full-time agricultural workers as they also work at home (2009). Women’s participation in paid agricultural work is limited. A significant portion of agricultural tasks, such as weeding, watering, harvesting, threshing, are mostly carried out by women; but as customs and traditions favor men’s access to markets, women’s contributions remain unrecognized, uncounted, and underestimated, even as their workloads are tripled. Women associated with agriculture have low wages, long working hours, ack of basic property rights as individuals, lack of access to and management of land and resources; lack of agriculture extension training, and lack of credit (SDPI 2008). In the irrigation sector, women have no say in decision-making, no clear-cut rights as water users, and no representation in irrigation-related agencies. When women are engaged in farming they spend less of their earnings and invest more on improving land and natural resources than men. The Provincial Irrigation Drainage Authorities and Area Water Boards have no representation of women because land ownership is the criterion for such representation, and women generally do not own land.
Apart from the policies of the national government that are biased towards big landlords, international agreements dictated by powerful countries also impact upon agriculture in developing countries. The Trade-Related Intellectual Property (TRIPs) agreement is particularly pernicious, for it allows the patenting of seeds by powerful multinational companies such as Monsanto. With the introduction of selfdestructing seeds, the control farmers exercised for centuries is set to be lost. The control over the world food chain through the Agreement on Agriculture pursued by rich countries under the World Trade Organization (WTO) regime threatens to create severe food insecurity in poor countries, and women would be the worst affected.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 25 million agricultural workers suffer from pesticide poisoning, and women comprise a significant portion of this figure. Women’s agricultural work creates medical complications which are seldom addressed because of their lower status in rural homes and lack of attention to their health and nutritional needs. 2. 1. 4 Women and Forestry and Fisheries Women also play a role in forestry and gathering fuel for cooking. They are responsible for fencing, procuring food for family, fodder for livestock and 10 Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan raw materials to produce medicines which fetch extra income for the family. Here, as in other areas, they are not recognized as full workers.
In the past, women were equally involved in fisheries, but with the mechanization and commercialization of the fishing industry, they were slowly pushed out. According to Najma Sadeque, who studied the loss of women’s livelihoods in fishing communities, the introduction of nylon nets resulted in loss of income for women (Sarwar n. d. ). The Deep Sea Fishing Policy, which allows foreign trawlers to catch fish through satellite tracking, has directly affected the sustenance of fisherfolk (ibid. ). 3 To date, not a single policy framework or administrative action, with regard to the socioeconomic uplift of fisherwomen, has been taken by the government to ensure sustainability or the livelihoods of fisherwomen.
Tayyaba Ahmed, who has studied women in fisheries, reports that with the change in fishing practices, from the family to industrial fishing, the role of women in family fishing has almost come to an end in Pakistan (2004). When fisherwomen more or less retired from active fishing and focused more on the home, they lost a steady income. Since the late 1960s, the use of nylon fishing nets put an end to women’s traditional livelihoods earned through the weaving of cotton nets, which had once been their main source of a small, stable income. When the fisheries were “professionalized,” only men were recognized as involved in the fishing industry, and women were restricted from their traditional livelihoods.
In areas where export agents took over the catches, women workers lost access to fish for sale and were turned into low paid wage laborers. A day’s work, of peeling 12–14 kilograms of prawns, fetches a mere Rs 40–60, helping to make poverty endemic amongst these communities. About 10,000 women workers are associated with the fisheries industry and are employed in 30 3 Registered Processing Plants or warrahs where the conditions for workers are appalling (Ahmed 2004). Women peel and clean ice-covered shrimps, fish and crabs with their bare hands. They are involved in grading, sorting and packing, drying and cleaning fish, and work in fish meal plants. A sizeable number of women workers are involved in weaving nets, making fish baskets and so on as wage laborers.
Despite the difficult and hazardous nature of this work, women have few protections for their health and safety: even rubber boots and gloves are unheard of in the warrah. Nor are proper working tools available. There in no protection from the summer heat even as women work with ice-covered shrimps, leaving them susceptible to disease. There are no proper hand-washing facilities available, nor is First Aid or a dispensary available. In some warrahs only one toilet is provided per 100 women workers, and the condition is deplorable. As a result, women are prone to diseases due to lack of hygiene and poor work conditions, including malaria, gastrointestinal ailments, tuberculosis, skin diseases, Hepatitis B, and continuous backaches.
Women workers are called in whenever a catch arrives, even if it is in the middle of the night, and during the high season, women may work for 14–15 hours at a stretch. Girls as young as 15 years of age are employed in warrahs (Ahmed 2004). Despite these appalling conditions, women’s role in the fisheries industry is not recognized in government policy documents, laws and rules. The Handbook of Fisheries Statistics of Pakistan, an annual publication of the Marine Fisheries Department, has no mention of women, even though it carries a full chapter on the fishermen population. Government policies and documents on fisheries do not make any mention of women (SDPI 2008).
The first ever convention of fisherwomen was organized by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum in 2005, where it was recognized that women participate equally in going into waters, catching fish, weaving nets, preparing boats, drying fish and selling catch in the market. Deneb Sumbul has made a documentary film on the issues of fisherwomen and the impact of the sale of Diamond Bar Islands on the coastal areas and fisherfolk livelihoods. See also “Fisherwomen seek their rights,”, in The Nation, 2008. Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan 11 Recognizing that women had been marginalized by commercialization, attendees at the convention stressed the need for special training and alternative employment opportunities. 2. 1. 5 Summary
Women generally do not own land, and when they do, they do not exercise effective control over it. There are customary and traditional constraints on their ownership which are further exacerbated by dependence upon male relatives. Women themselves are reluctant to demand their inheritance for fear of violence and social censure. The state and its laws are perceived as abstract and distant entities, not easily accessible to women. As a result they rely on local traditional systems which are often biased against women. There is no institutional and legal framework for agriculture, fishery or forestry in the country and gender discrimination is rampant.
Women do not have access to extension services. The majority of women work in villages due to mobility concerns and this diminishes their income chances. When women’s work is used for household consumption and not sold in the market it becomes devalued as it is accorded no monetary value. The work done in the field is seen as an extension of household duties and therefore not counted in data collection. Women in the fisheries industry similarly go unrecognized and underpaid, despite working in terrible conditions. Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) requires that there be no discrimination against women with regard to economic and social rights.
State policies are required to be just and equitable with regard to gender so that national income is not distributed in a skewed way, and to ensure that those who produce the country’s wealth receive an equitable share of the fruits. The Constitution of 1973, in its Principles of Policy section, declares that “steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life” (Article 34). There is recognition in the fundamental law of the land that women’s participation in all national spheres is vital for the country’s prosperity. Article 37(e) of the Constitution reads: “The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment. Article 38 of the Constitution specifically refers to economic well-being: The State shall (a) secure the well-being of the people, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, by raising their standard of living, by preventing the concentration of wealth and means of production and distribution in the hands of a few to the detriment of general interest and by ensuring equitable adjustment of rights between employers and employees, and landlords and tenants; (b) provide for all citizens, within the available resources of the country, facilities for work and adequate livelihood with reasonable rest and leisure; (c) provide f

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