Women as Agent of Change: The Lynchpin of Human Development

Women empowerment is essential for economic, social, and political development. Gender inequality and discrimination against women is widespread and common in almost all cultures. This disparity is rampant in developing and under-developed countries. Women’s political participation has profound positive and democratic impacts on communities, legislatures, political parties, and citizen’s lives. The spirit and vitality of women should never be underestimated as a catalyst for change. A sustainable way of human development can only be achieved by providing equal opportunities to women.

Women empowerment is crucial for human development and no society can progress without including, accepting, and recognizing women as important factors of change in societies. Women empowerment is imperative for sustainable development and entire nations, businesses and communities can benefit from the implementation of programs and policies of women empowerment. The empowerment of women is a necessity for the development of a society since it enhances both the quality and the number of human resources available for development. Empowerment is one of the main procedural concerns when addressing human rights and development.

The promotion of Women Empowerment is essential for meeting developmental goals and creating a prosperous, peaceful, and safe world. Women empowerment is a process that enables women to control their lives, reshape their societies, and develop their communities. Women empowerment is all about equipping and allowing women to make life-determining decisions. It also includes the actions of raising the social status of women through awareness, education, literacy and training related to self-defence. Women empowerment means women are gaining more and more control and power over their own lives and choices.

The United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), issued by the UN Secretary-General in 2001, are a “road map” for implementing the Millennium Declaration. Goal 3 calls for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

UN is committed to achieving gender equality and women empowerment through humanitarian and development goals. Thanks to the United Nations and its member states that thousands of millions of women are now free from violence and discrimination, enjoying their ultimate right to education, employment, and political participation. This can be seen in the areas of poverty reduction, education, and health care in many developing countries.  United Nations Development Program coordinates on global and national levels to integrate the concept of gender equality and women empowerment into a democratic governance system.

United Nations (UN) Women is an entity dedicated to women empowerment and gender equality. It is a global drive for girls and women, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on women empowerment and meet their requirements worldwide. UN women support UN member states and set standard operating procedures and global goals for achieving gender equality in governance, economic sphere, and social structure. UN Women works with the governments and civil society of member states to design policies, amend laws, and initiate programs and services required to ensure that the standards are effectively implemented and truly proved beneficial for women and girls. It works globally to make the vision of sustainable development goals a reality for women and girls.

The twenty-first century has witnessed women making progress in every sphere of life and certainly, women have largely contributed to a positive change in the world.  Women leaders have changed and influenced world politics and introduced a new direction for crisis management and environmental protection along with the promotion of peace and harmony in the world. Indeed, women are deeply committed to peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction and they have a unique power approach to resolve conflicts on the negotiation table. Women advocates stability, conflict prevention and harmony in the world. Studies show that when women make peace agreements, post-conflict governance order, and reconstruction structure, it often proves long-lasting.

It is worthy to mention Angela Merkel, German politician and first female Chancellor in the world is described as the de facto leader of the European Union and the most powerful women and leader of the free world.  She is also known as “ Climate Chancellor”, with her at the helm, The European Union Council presidency initiated a consensus among European Union member states on a 2030 climate target and pandemic stimulus program for green recovery.

The world has lauded the efforts of Jacinda Arden (Prime minister of New Zealand), that she was able to demonstrate a compassionate and emphatic response to a violent terrorist attack against a religious community. A change in response also termed as a feminine response by Jacinda Arden, to a violent terrorist attack was applauded by the world.

Women play a vital role in environmental protection and climate change management therefore their full participation is essential to achieve sustainable development. In this regard, a major agent of change in environmental protection is a young and furious teen named Greta Thunberg (Swedish environmental activist) who is actively fighting and challenging world leaders to environment protection and climate change.

The youngest Noble Laureate from Pakistan, the survivor of a terrorist attack, Malala Yousafzai is a female education activist, known for advocating human rights, focusing on the promotion of education in developing countries. The fierce young face from Pakistan has given some powerful inspiring message after facing death from the most notorious Terrorists. She put great emphasis on education and empowerment of change.

There are many other women like Theresa May Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Michele Obama, the first lady of the United States of America, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Foundation those with their work have worked extensively to bring transformational improvements and health and prosperity of families, and societies.

The United Nations has maintained and strengthened its support for women around the globe and it certainly has improved the lives of hundreds of millions of women and girls across the world yet there are many developing and underdeveloped countries where the status of women is b and they are part of a vicious cycle of patriarchy, discrimination and social injustice.

‘” Things have changed for the better, but not for all women and not in all domains of gender equality. Progress has been slow and limited for some women in very poor countries, for those who are poor, even amid greater wealth, and for those who face other forms of exclusion because of their caste, disability, location, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Whether comparisons between men and women in the same country or absolute comparisons of women across countries, the progress in some domains is tempered by the sobering realities that many women face in others” – World Development Report 2012

Pakistan is the world’s fifth-most populous country and second-largest South Asian country with 212.3 million population (based on world meter elaboration of the United Nations data). The sixth housing and population census show that men have outnumbered women, where 51 percent of the total population of Pakistan and women make 49 percent. Women in Pakistan have played important role in the history and development of their country. The country has produced many female heroes, the country has given international politics-Benazir Bhutto first Muslim women executive and head of state and many others strong visionary women like Sherry Rehman, Fehmida Mirza, Hina Rabbani Khar, Major General Shahida Malik,  Mala Yousaf Zai and Muniba Mazari. On the other hand, there are women like Mukhtaran Mai, Asia bibi and Tehmina Durrani who have suffered at the hands of violent perpetrators irrespective of their socio-economic status.

Pakistan has some policy goals and commitments on the national level for women empowerment and development that include protection against harassment of women at workplace Act, Honor killing Act (criminal law), offence related to rape and National Plan of Action on Human rights. Despite these legislations and policies, Pakistan’s ranking for gender equality remains one of the lowest in the world.

The status of women in Pakistan varies across different classes, regions, ethnicities, rural, urban divisions due to unequal distribution of socio-economic resources and the impact of societal and feudal norms on the lives of women across Pakistan. However, women in Pakistan still face discrimination due to the patriarchal structure of the society, religious extremism, and low literacy ratio. Many scholars argue that no society can make advancement without mainstreaming women as an active member of the society therefore there is a need for legislative changes to achieve gender parity in Pakistan.

 

First, there is a need to devise large scale, comprehensive solutions that include national and local policy practice, as well as engagement of individuals minds and hearts. In this way, a huge impact can be made in gender equality and realize national development goal including MDGs. There is a greater need to focus on women empowerment on four dimensions for a notable change in the world. That includes strengthening of legal and policy framework, improve institutional capacity and process, engage civil society, and formation of new community relationship that empower women and sustain equality.

Second cross-cutting strategies are required in the social system that is deeply embedded with violence against women including home-based violence.

Third, a pivotal role in addressing the gender gap must be played by leadership: the leadership include political leadership and business leadership.

Fourth, the most important tools to achieve women empowerment are policy incentives. These ranges from quotas, targets, wage equality, legislation, parental leave policy, agile age, and robust infrastructure to reach financial independence.

Fifth, promoting and encouraging women in a leadership role, will increase their visibility and normalize their presence in high ranked positions.

United Nations must show its leadership by prioritizing gender equality at work. It must ensure that its efforts are as coherent and effective as possible in women empowerment and the promotion of women rights and security. Women empowerment is a prerequisite of sustainable development and together, we can achieve this goal and ensure a better future for women around the world.

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Sobia Khursheed
About Sobia Khursheed 2 Articles
Writing enthusiast with strong insight on social and political issues. Accomplished various sustainable development projects and lecturer of international relations in NDU Islamabad.