Women and Inclusivity of Growth
Collective for Social Science Research
Challenges facing Pakistan
• How will increased female labour force
participation help to redress gender
• Benefits of affirmative action – can the state
lead in opening doors for women, and does it
• How best to tackle entrenched patriarchal
order – systematically and consistently.
Empowerment and Paid Work
• Purdah norms limit women’s access to work
opportunities outside the home.
• Paid work outside the home associated with
better health and education outcomes for
children, but double burden with domestic
work may have neg impact on daughters.
• Is women’s unpaid work within the home of
too valuable to economy to change these
What is the role of public policy and can it work?
• Protection and rights for home-based women
• Recognition for agricultural women workers
• Rights and protections for women in the
Lady Health Workers
• Cadre of 100,000 working women in underserved
areas across Pakistan.
• Improved health outcomes
• Leaders in their communities
• Led to successful collective action by LHWs
Reserved seats for women in elected
• Raised standard of parliamentary debate
proved track record of women
• Worked across party lines for progressive
• Linkages forged btw civil society, NCSW &
provincial CSWs, pol parties, HR bodies
• Finding: public policy needed for implementation
• Quotas needed at all levels of public service
(bureaucracy, police, judiciary) - matched with
quotas in political parties (seat allocation, decision-
making positions, etc)
Today’s girls @100
• Parents’ and
work and age
• Gendered norms are shaped by age, ethnicity, location,
and the real/perceived threat of violence on roads, at
schools/colleges & workplace.
Public policy and adolescents
Being Adolescent in Karachi (2015) found:
1. Transition to adulthood happening with limited
support from public policy, heavily mediated by
1. School system to be a potential enabling
platform eg [Life Skills Education curriculum]
2. A road to socialisation outside of family
3. Proactive health system, better security, and
support for working adolescents.
Patriarchy in Pakistan @100
• Breaking the public / private divide.
• Bringing women into public spaces at the
same time as confronting VAW.
• Reframing learned acceptance of male
dominance to stop its inter-generational
Mixed socio-psychological impact: great self esteem and economic security mixed with higher domestic violence and limited decision making within the home.
It is important to inquire about the impact of greater numbers of women outside the home, for example, on the construction of the very cultural and social norms that govern the gendered segregation of public spaces. Research on female mobility has already shown how the division of space has been contested and renegotiated over time, and also how the state plays a role in creating women’s access to public spaces. There are also accounts of the impact of women’s employment in professions such as teaching and health services on prior social norms even in remote areas in which the state has had a positive role to play, as we have seen in the case of Lady Health Workers .
Not only can public policy, backed with effective legislation, provide security and stability to millions of working women, but it can also go a step further and seek to reduce the impact of domestic or household work on women so as to avoid the negative effects of the double burden of work. Child care facilities at the workplace, and paid parental leave, are two such instruments that have proven useful in other countries, however women’s double burden of work and their domestic responsibilities remains one of the most difficult areas to intervene effectively.
Many LHWs driven to work due to poverty at first. It made such a significant impact in their communities and transformed LHWs into community leaders, that subsequently a wider ranger of applicants began to apply for these jobs. Unfortunately conflict-affected areas became insecure, and the presence of LHWs in public spaces administering polio vaccinations made them a target of extremists. This jeopardized the empowerment related benefits of this line of work. Nevertheless, the programme continues to expand and women still come forward to apply in large numbers.
There is no alternative to the government taking a pro-active and socially transformative role in favour of the protection of women’s rights and inclusion at all levels of society. No alternative to strengthening their citizenship status and ability to access entitlements from the state.
Research has demonstrated there is a strong link between civil society advocacy campaigns, matched with support to women parliamentarians, that has helped lead to a steady stream of pro women legislation addressing many important gender issues, including violence, in the workplace and within the home. However women on reserved seats do not feel themselves empowered as politicians, lacking as they do a constituency of their own and dependent upon largely male assembly colleagues for their elections. Clearly this is only part of the solution.
Complicating matters further, research and work by civil society organizations is exploring why new laws have not had the impact expected. Many conclude that affirmative action policies need to extend further to other areas, so that laws and policies can be supported by institutions that include women, represent them, and are willing to take difficult decisions to implement reform even when it may be unpopular.
The World Bank report under discussion today has findings relating to how gender inequalities are perpetuated across generations through the significantly lower aspirations that parents have for their daughters than their sons in terms of years of education, choice of spouse, and what type of jobs – if at all – are permissible for girls. It also reveals that adolescents too have gendered aspirations for themselves which limit the extent to which girls express a desire to study and work as compared to boys. Yet it also shows that the extent to which parents and girls have some formal education raises their aspirations for girls, bringing them more at par with those for boys.
2) One of the difficulties posed by internalizing gender values that denigrate girls and women, is that they are part of a larger systemic imbalance that gives legitimacy to violence and women. In a study of domestic violence in selected districts across Pakistan (Rutgers/WPF) more than half of the women interviewed said that a woman failing to do her household work properly counted as justification for husband to be violent. In another study carried out in Karachi (2014), similar findings emerged. 96.7% (n=734) of females perceived their husband as authority figure in the family and 99.2% (n=753) considered themselves to be good wives by being obedient to their husbands.
Meanwhile, despite the all too common reality of violence against women within the home, it is the threat of violence and harassment outside the home that is used to justify restrictions on girls’ mobility and access to employment and education opportunities. A Rapid Assessment of Sexual Harassment in transport services in Khi (2014) found that 85 percent of working women, 82 percent students and 67 percent homemakers felt harassed, at least once, while commuting during the last year. Study concluded that, in addition to awareness raising campaigns, there was a need to have increased women in the police force and located at stations so that laws could be enforced and women encouraged to come forward with complaints.
Our own research has found that we need to pay attention to differences amongst ethnic communities and migration experiences in the city of Karachi, because mobility norms for women vary.
Phadke (2013) in her research on urban India notes how the pretext of safety against violence and harassment, especially in the public domain, often becomes a means of patriarchal control for women. The threat of violence also circumscribes which types of labour force participation are considered acceptable for women, such as teaching and medicine.
‘Karachi adolescents’ transition to adulthood is happening under conditions of limited support from public policy, with the family as the key unit of decision-making. The interaction with possible instruments of public policy such as the schooling system, health services, social protection, and employment provision or regulation is minimal, and with others such as law enforcement can sometimes be counterproductive to an effective transition. The schooling system which might provide a possible platform for supporting adolescents through the transition by preparing them for the world of work, integrating health care, knowledge and behaviour change mentoring, career counselling, broader socialisation through sports and other healthy recreational activities, has been unable to ensure universal enrolment.
While families provide what support they can, they are constrained by their own meagre material resources and capacities, and operate within the context of prevailing social norms and conditions. Specifically this might imply the presence of social violence in general and domestic violence in particular for obtaining compliance from adolescents. It might mean that open and supportive conversations are not had in time before the onset of puberty. There might be discrimination in the allocation of limited household resources between males and females. Families will also tend to police adolescents’ social interactions in all areas of life, particularly with respect to leisure activities and non- family socialisation. This will often happen on the pretext of complying with social norms, or to protect adolescents from the prevailing insecurity and violence in the community or the city. Adolescents are left with trying to negotiate their access to the wider world while also, in part, accepting the boundaries and norms and themselves enforcing them.
Perhaps most importantly, families will tend to reproduce themselves and their communities with respect to gender. As shown in this report, one of the most critical elements in the adulthood transition facing Karachi adolescents is the socialisation, respectively, of boys and girls into men and women. While boys are directed towards integration into the wider world, girls are progressively channelled into the private sphere. This is seen in a most marked way in how adolescents’ view themselves – older adolescent females are half as likely as their male counterparts to believe that they have good qualities. Public policy, therefore, has to maintain a delicate balance between supporting families on the one hand, and on the other provide support to adolescents as individuals and autonomously from the family.
Finally, the role of public policy with respect to supporting a healthy and effective transition towards adulthood needs to be seen in broader terms as well as in the detail of particular sectors, interventions and programmes that target adolescents. It is critical, of course, that the schooling system plays its role, that health services are proactive, that the security situation improves and that there is support and protection to adolescents in the world of work. But these specific actions and others may not amount to much in the absence of a clearer understanding of the broader and more fundamental role of public policy. A more proactive role of public policy goes beyond simply regarding adolescents as subjects of specific interventions. There needs to be a broader dialogue and engagement, and not only with
adolescents, on deeper questions relating to issues such as individual development, gender equality, delegitimising violence, and the promotion of a non-family social life, as possible directions of societal change.’
At all levels, reforms and support for women’s empowerment and freedom from violence and coercion requires a concerted effort to break the public/private divide. This divide is key to the maintenance of patriarchal structures, within which violence and intimidation of women thrives. It restricts their mobility, access to resources and opportunities, employment, education, and health services.
Women and girls are both subject to and threatened by many forms of violence, both within and outside the home, although we still lack good data on prevalence and details covering the whole country. These forms of violence include: domestic violence, sexual harassment in public places, forced/early marriages, honour killings and Jirga decisions, acid attacks conflict-related internal displacement, and a commensurate lack of access to supportive social services and criminal justice system that would mitigate the effects of such violence and/or transform the belief systems that perpetuate it.