See More on Facebook

Culture and society

The damning state of Pakistan’s women

Pakistani women are undereducated, physically and mentally abused and lack access to information and financial services.


Written by

Updated: June 26, 2019

Economic indicators are an important measure to track a country’s progress, but by themselves and without context, they do not mean much.

Looking at economic data, quarter by quarter, year by year, without focusing on what’s driving changes, or lack thereof, is like looking at the blood sugar levels of a patient without paying attention to that person’s lifestyle or dietary habits.

In the run-up to this fiscal year’s budget, Pakistan’s print, electronic and social media has been drowning in economic data. However, almost no one has paid attention to the underlying social indicators that reflect what ails Pakistan’s economy and its society at large.

A holistic analysis of these ailments is worthy of a thesis by itself. I will, however, try to use some key — and at times, shocking — indicators to paint a picture of the crisis facing Pakistan.

But first, a bit about economic development: sustainable economic growth of a society occurs when a strong social foundation exists, and this foundation is only laid when key indicators, particularly those that measure the wellbeing of women in society, begin to improve.

GDP growth, exports, tax revenues, foreign exchange reserves and other economic indicators can only be sustainably improved when such a foundation exists.

The Analytical Angle: Why haven’t past education reforms had more effect?

The 2017-18 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) offers us a glimpse into key social indicators and can explain why Pakistan is consistently falling behind the rest of the world. According to this survey, Pakistan’s women are undereducated, physically and mentally abused and lack access to information and financial services.

According to the survey data, almost 49.2 per cent of ever-married women aged 15-49 had no education whatsoever (the figure is 25.4pc for men). If you look at rural women by themselves, the figure rises to nearly 61.6pc (33.3pc for men).

Only 13.1pc of women in Pakistan have attained an education level of Class 11 or higher (18.9pc for men); 21.5pc of women who have had no schooling or studied between Class 1-9 can read a whole sentence (24pc for men).

Half of the women surveyed were illiterate, which is evidence on its own that the state has failed its citizens.

Based on these indicators, we can conclude that women in Pakistan have a strong disadvantage in terms of access to employment and information. This has dire consequences not only for women themselves, but for their children and society writ large.

Literacy and violence

Many in Pakistan claim that social media and the internet have changed the country, but according to the data, the information age has yet to reach almost 9 in 10 women in Pakistan. The PDHS data shows that 29.8pc of men surveyed have ever used the internet, while only 12.6pc of women reported to have ever used the internet.

High illiteracy means that women cannot inform themselves, and the PDHS shows that only 5.1pc of women read a newspaper at least once a week, compared to 27.1pc of men.

Only 6pc of women have and use a bank account, compared to 31.6pc of men. 92.7pc of men own a mobile phone, while only 39.2pc of women said that they own a mobile phone.

Lack of education and access to information leads to a lack of employment opportunities. Only 17.3pc of women said that they were currently employed (96.1pc for men), while an astounding 80pc of women said they had not been employed in the last 12 months preceding the survey (2.3pc for men).

The data also highlights that even when women attain education, they tend to not work.

According to the PDHS, 62.5pc of women in the highest wealth quintile have attained an education level of Class 10 or higher. However, the employment rate is only 11.5pc among these wealthy women, meaning that the vast majority of highly educated women are not putting their education to productive use and are choosing to stay at home.

Poorly educated and with little to no prospects of employment, it is also very common for Pakistani women to experience physical violence.

The data shows that 27.6pc of women have experienced physical violence since age 15. Within this group, 14.6pc reported experiencing physical violence often or sometimes in the past 12 months.

Violence committed by husbands is the most common form of violence women face, and 23.7pc of women reported experiencing physical or sexual violence from their spouse.

These women have no choice but to bear this violence, and 56.4pc of women have never sought help and never told anyone about the violence that they have faced.

Left behind?

Pakistan has a fertility rate of 3.6 births per woman, one of the highest in the world. Poorly educated, facing physical and sexual violence and with little to no access to information, Pakistan’s women are being asked to raise a new generation in a society that is already facing major resource constraints.

According to the PDHS, 38pc of children under the age of five in Pakistan are stunted and 23pc of children under the age of five are underweight. This means that a significant proportion of Pakistan’s future generations are growing up with a high risk of mental and physical disability.

According to the 2017 census, there are over 101 million women in Pakistan, making up almost 49pc of the country’s population. With over a 100 million Pakistani citizens facing an educational, employment, financial, physical, and emotional crisis, is it any surprise that the country continues to fall behind the rest of the world?

Also read: I’m glad Imran Khan has highlighted stunting. But there is more to it than clean water and food

It is preposterous that, faced with such a crisis, Pakistan’s elite wants to discuss and debate whether this International Monetary Fund bailout will be the last one ever, whether the country needs a commission to investigate the debt taken on in the last decade or whether a quote is attributed to Gibran or Tagore.

A volcano is bubbling under the surface and it will burst forth sooner or later. If Pakistan does not get its act together, this nuclear-armed country will find itself in a crisis unlike any faced by a nation-state in the twenty-first century.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Dawn
About the Author: Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Culture and society

Ayodhya verdict is silent on why Muslims must prove exclusive possession of site

The Indian court has deprived Muslims of the disputed plot because they couldn’t show exclusive possession before 1857. On page 215 of the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid verdict, delivered by a five-judge bench on Saturday, the Supreme Court makes a crucial statement of logic: “It is true that in matters of faith and belief, the absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence.” But in its final findings, the court contradicted this same logic. The crux of the judgment that India has awaited since 1949 is that Muslims failed to show unimpeded possession of the disputed site in Ayodhya between 1528, when the mosque was supposedly built by Mughal emperor Babur, and 1857, when, after a clash between Muslims and Hindus, a railing was erected between the inner and outer courtyards at the disputed site. The inner courtyard is where the mosque demolished by Hindutva mobs in 1992 stood. The outer courtyard has se


By Dawn
November 12, 2019

Culture and society

The government has undermined education

A core value for a country to develop, the federal govenrment must make amends. The High-Level National Education Commission was formed in 2018 to recommend steps to better the country’s education system. After much criticism regarding the secrecy surrounding the findings of the commission, the Education Ministry finally, made public portions of the new education policy. But it seems all is still not well. Analysts and commission members were quick to point out that the new policy has disregarded almost all of the commission’s recommendations, mainly the part where private schools were required to be transformed from ‘for-profit’ to ‘not-for-profit’. Findings of the commission are important documents that ne


By The Kathmandu Post
November 11, 2019

Culture and society

Egypt backs China’s quest to repatriate its artifacts

Egypt has brought back artifacts from western museums under the current government. Egypt’s minister for antiquities said his country supports China’s efforts to repatriate its historical artifacts from around the world, as countries with a rich cultural heritage have a duty to future generations to safeguard these items for their own people and humanity as a whole. Khaled El-Enany spoke to China Daily at the launch of the exhibition Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, which opened on Saturday and will run at London’s Saatchi Gallery until May 3. The exhibition coincides with the 97th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb on Nov 4, 1922, by an expedition led by British historian Howard Carter.


By China Daily
November 6, 2019

Culture and society

South-east Asia expects long fight against ISIS influence

They say militant group remains capable and dangerous even after death of leader. South-east Asian countries fighting the influence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region have lauded the killing of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but said security forces were preparing for a long battle to thwart the militant group’s ideology. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, home to some of Asia’s most organised Islamist militants, said on Monday that they were prepared for retaliation by ISIS loyalists, including “lone wolf” attacks by locals radicalised by the group’s powerful online propaganda. Baghdadi killed himself in a tunnel in north-west Syria by detonating a suicide vest as United States forces closed in, according to US President Donald Trump. Though his death will unsettle ISIS, it remains capable and dangerous, sa


By The Straits Times
November 1, 2019

Culture and society

30 years of work to restore Shuri Castle undone

The fires took place at Shuri Castle on Okinawa. The results of 30 years of efforts to restore Shuri Castle were lost as a massive fire destroyed the castle in Naha early Thursday. Shuri Castle was a symbol of the distinctive Ryukyu culture that incorporated elements of the cultures of Japan and China. It had Chinese palace-style architecture with a beautiful vermilion tiled roof, along with a karahafu curved gable typically found in Japanese castles. The castle’s main hall was designated as a national treasure before World War II, but was destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa. Three decades of restoration work on the castle had just been completed in January. “Shuri Castle represents the history of Okinawa. Many lives and cultural properties were lost in the war, and Shuri Castle was the most notable example,” said Kurayoshi Takara, a former vice go


By The Japan News
November 1, 2019

Culture and society

Obituary: Sadako Ogata

Ogata’s dedication to mission earned her respect at UN. By Saki Ouchi Senior Research Fellow at the Yomiuri Shimbun Research Institute. In March 2000, I accompanied Sadako Ogata on her final inspection tour of the former Yugoslavia as the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. We bounced around for hours in a four-wheel-drive vehicle down a bumpy road still scarred from recent fighting, moving between accommodations that lacked even hot water. She listened intently as local people told her stories of losing their families and livelihoods and condemned the ethnic groups with which they were in conflict. At a meeting in Kosovo, Ogata told a staff member who complained about a shortage of funds and manpower, “Tell me what you can do, not what you can’t do.”


By The Japan News
October 31, 2019