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Saturday, July 20, 2024 18:03
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Hilal Her

Investing in Women: A Catalyst for Progress

March 2024

Empowering women is crucial for fostering a progressive society, as it promotes social, political, and economic advancement. Asian nations such as Singapore and China have empowered their female citizens to achieve success on a global scale. Today, these countries are commonly seen as the ultimate symbols of achievement and status worldwide. Providing diverse choices to women enables them to enhance their lives and participate actively in the social and political spheres.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is observed annually on March 8th to acknowledge the challenges and accomplishments of women globally. It is a day to recognize the significant role that women play in the society and to advocate for their rights. The theme for this year’s IWD is ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’. Investing in women is the most effective method to elevate individuals, communities, and nations, Pakistan being no exception.
Pakistan is currently at a critical point where harnessing the capabilities of its women can drive substantial progress in economic development and social betterment. 
It is crucial to recognize the pivotal role that investing in Pakistani women can play in driving the country’s progress and development. Women in Pakistan, as in many other countries, confront impediments to full involvement in society, from limited education and healthcare to systemic disparities in the workforce and decision-making. However, by prioritizing investments in empowering initiatives, we can not only promote gender equality but also unlock the tremendous potential for economic and social advancement. When women are given equal opportunities to thrive, they become agents of positive change, driving innovation, fostering inclusive communities, and catalyzing sustainable development across all sectors. This article delves into the potential impact of investing in women on Pakistan’s development and fostering a more inclusive and prosperous society.
Empowering women through employment opportunities, training, and financial resources can unleash their potential to fuel the country’s economic development. Research indicates that the full involvement of women in the economy results in enhanced productivity, a higher GDP, and poverty reduction. In Pakistan, various programs like microfinance initiatives, vocational training centers, and entrepreneurship schemes targeted at the women’s populace have demonstrated positive outcomes in enhancing women’s economic empowerment. Programs like the Kamyab Jawan program, Pink Bus Service, National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), etc., show dedication to supporting women’s entrepreneurship by offering financial aid and training to young entrepreneurs. The International Growth Centre (IGC) released a report in March 2023 stating that achieving gender equality in the labor force could potentially boost Pakistan’s GDP to about 60% by 2025. By enhancing financial access and eliminating obstacles to starting businesses, women have the opportunity to express their creativity, drive innovation, etc., which in turn can drive economic growth.
Investing in girls’ education and skills development is crucial for creating a highly trained workforce and maintaining the country’s long-term competitiveness. Pakistan continues to encounter obstacles in attaining gender equality in education, especially in rural regions and among marginalized groups, notwithstanding recent advancements. The Pakistan Education Statistics 2019–2020 report shows that the net enrollment rate for girls in primary school is 77.1%, while for boys it is 81.3%. 
Pakistan can unleash the potential of numerous young women by investing in girls’ education through scholarships, infrastructure enhancements, teacher training programs, etc. Enhancing human capital also requires investing in skills development and vocational training centers. To ensure that skills’ training has a significant effect on income generation, it needs to be aligned with market demand. In recent times, there has been a rise in private training facilities catering to women in towns and cities. These facilities provide short courses in graphic design, fashion design, IT skills, etc. Educated and skilled women are more inclined to join the workforce and make well-informed choices regarding their health, family, and community.
Encouraging women to engage in politics and leadership positions is also crucial for promoting inclusive governance and decision-making procedures. Pakistan has made progress in enhancing women’s presence in  the parliament and local administration, although there are significant cultural and systemic obstacles that continue to impede women’s political involvement. Recent data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union shows that women occupy just 20.7% of seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan. 
Supporting women’s political leadership entails offering training, mentorship, and support systems to assist women in navigating the political environment and addressing gender-based discrimination. Women’s presence at decision-making tables contributes various perspectives, goals, and solutions to address societal demands, resulting in more effective and inclusive policies.
For the purpose of enhancing women’s wellbeing and health, it is vital to improve their access to reproductive rights and healthcare services. Investing in maternity and child health, family planning, and gender-sensitive healthcare infrastructure initiatives can lead to decreased maternal mortality, enhanced child nutrition, and empowered women capable of making informed decisions about their bodies and futures. Some of the measures that the government has taken, such as the Sehat Sahulat, ES-Mother, etc., are designed to increase access to healthcare services for women and groups that are underprivileged. These programs provide health insurance coverage to families with low incomes.
Investing in women is not only a matter of social justice but also a strategic imperative for Pakistan’s progression and prosperity. By empowering women economically, politically, and socially, Pakistan can unlock their potential as agents of change and catalysts for development. Several Pakistani women are at the forefront of advocating for women’s rights and equality despite facing challenges. Various individuals, including women’s rights activists, educators, journalists, and politicians, have been dedicated to challenging gender stereotypes and advocating for women’s empowerment. By investing in women, Pakistan can build a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future for the generations to come. The celebration of IWD is a powerful reminder of the advancements made and the ongoing efforts needed to attain gender equality. We need to advocate for women’s rights and break down the barriers that hinder the advancement of a fair and equal society.

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