‘Problems of Pakistani women’.
Introducing the topic, Ms. Shafaq Sheikh gave some facts and figures about state of women in Pakistan, and underlined that most of the problems faced by Pakistani women were common to whole population without any discrimination. Common men as well as women are victims to poor quality of life, insufficient opportunities and exploitive conditions. The status of women can be elevated only through overall progress and development of society. In few cases, however, women are the only, or the main victims. Better governance, proper implementation of laws and policies, and balanced progress of all sections and areas of society would obviously reduce the problems faced by the members of society, including women. She said that the status of women in Pakistani society was not homogenous, and there was diversity in it across various classes, regions and areas (rural/urban) due to different socio-economic construct of each distinct section of society. She mentioned that the aim of discussion was to prepare the recommendations for people from different walks of life and stakeholders, to establish a model society with the strengthened family institution. Dilating upon these problems, she made it clear that citing problems should not give an impression that women, in all cases, live in a pathetic condition, and had no positive role to play in social and economic arenas. It does not mean, as well, that the rights of women can be acquired by challenging the position of men in the society. A balanced society needs an active and efficient participation of both genders in cooperation with each other. The provision of basic facilities and better opportunities to all citizens, without any discrimination, should always be one of the primary objectives of a society. National policies, as well as, social construct do not help women in playing their due role in the society; investment in developing their human capital is lower, and economic and cultural aspects of social life are not adjusted to their needs and requirements. She further stressed that some problems were in fact, the root causes, and the rest were their offshoots. She viewed that the problems faced by women, as members of society, can be studied under six heads: health, education, economy, legal affairs, social affairs and political affairs. She underscored that the presentation was an attempt to list all those issues, which were generally perceived to be the problems of women; this should not be taken as a consensus list as different people perceived them differently, and the group in its future deliberations might evaluate them. In health sector, there is a lack of basic facilities in all areas and regions, for the whole population, in general, but women and children in the rural areas suffer the most. Inadequate community outreach and remoteness of health services centres add to the problems, caused by lack of proper care and non-availability of qualified medical staff. Unhygienic environment, widespread poverty, and insufficiency of clean drinking water are among the main reasons for poor health and high death rate. Lack of awareness in masses further aggravates the already pitiable situation. Similarly, the availability of educational facilities as well as their standard is far away from perfection. On one hand, the educational infrastructure is unsatisfactory; while on the other hand, the social conduct and perceptions are not always in favor of female education. Poverty makes another reason for low enrollment and high dropout rate, especially among female students. The misconception about the purpose of education, as being a tool for earning, is another dimension of the problem. Since females are not expected to work as bread-earners, therefore, parents feel less motivated to provide them with facilities for higher education. The economic role of women is clearly defined, and is well-acknowledged, as far as faith and tradition is concerned, but...
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