Towards the end of the year while trying to finish readings in the list for 2022 I have been also re-reading some of the development and related literature in a mixed state of shock, sadness and skepticism.
The Gender Snapshot was shown in September 2022 by UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) through their joint study report. It made the world aware of the “Progress” on the promise (to leave no one behind) by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If the current rate of progress and investments in social and gender equality continues, several critical warnings conveyed in the study are:
- It will take 300 years to achieve full gender equality
- It will take 140 years for women to achieve equal representation in leadership positions in the workplace
- It will take 40 years for the same to happen in national parliaments.
The Global Gender Gap (closed by 68.1%) was highlighted in July 2022 by the World Economic Forum in its signature report. It shocked the world through newer and broader measurements on emerging trends in the labour market and society. Of many (heart wrenching) inequalities, one is the pay gap.
The Forum predicted a period of 132 years to close the gender pay gap worldwide. This would or could happen if the current course of actions (inactions largely) continues.
The report that covered 146 countries and eight regions also uncovered that South Asia ranks the lowest, with only 62.3% of the gender gap closed in 2022. This means that in our region cessation of the gender gap requires another 197 years. And guess which countries are actually performing here? These are Bangladesh and Nepal with over 69% of their gender gaps closed.
Pakistan with the rank of 145/146 on gender inequalities somehow registered significant improvement across three subindexes, with the highest positive variation on Economic Participation and Opportunity. Pakistani women’s earnings increased 4% compared to 2021 as per this report.
What areas influence women’s economic participation? Women, Business and the Law 2022 is the report that scrutinised laws and regulations of 190 countries and looked into women’s’ situation and gains regarding their mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pensions.
This World Bank’s study launched on the International Women’s Day 2022 inferred that legal barriers in 178 countries prevent full economic participation of women, women face some form of job restriction in 86 countries, 95 countries do not guarantee equal pay for equal work, 2.4 billion women of working age are not afforded equal economic opportunity, women still have only three quarters of the legal rights afforded to men and , 46 economies still do not have legislation on sexual harassment in employment. In East Asia and Pacific region, it is Vietnam that eliminated all curbs on women’s employment. Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Sweden are those twelve advanced economies that scored 100 on legal parity.
A proud mention of Pakistan was as only one economy in the South Asian region (where women have only two-thirds of the legal rights of men in the region) that lifted restrictions on women’s ability to work at night (I could not however understand this precisely. Women doctors have always been working at night also and also there are many other job genres where women do work at night).
Pakistan has been also listed among other 4 countries (Bahrain, Benin, Burundi, and Vietnam) that assigned equal remuneration for work of equal value. The average global score for 2021 is 76.5 out of 100—and Pakistan’s score is 55.6. “Pakistan failed to convert into law a decree that would permanently equalize men’s and women’s ability to register a business,” the report recorded.
Amidst a relatively bleak scenario, one was personally happy to note that my country scored 100/100 on mobility indicator, legally. This indicator examined limitations on women’s agency and freedom of movement, including the rules governing the legal rights of men and women to obtain a passport, choose where to live, leave home at will, and travel outside the home. We all understand that many social realities within our homes, clans, streets, roads, offices and public transport are not in conformity with the laws.
Beyond these stirring research studies is a moving book ‘Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain’ authored by Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide. I discovered this book through internet search and found that Rachel Thomas, Co-founder/CEO of LeanIn.org has recommended it as one of the “must-read” books by women to read in 2022 .
This and other books like this should be read by all leaders in any sector. Since most leadership positions are held by men so it becomes compulsory for mighty men to comprehend disability from diversity lens. At times I really become confused: who is a disabled person in reality? The one who is spotted with a white cane, wheelchair, slurred or stammering speech, congenital anomalies, etc. or the ones who do not show any visible sign but fail to regard people with disabilities or any other gender identity as equals?
Besides these there are many other publications supported by different donor agencies and executed by different expert individuals and institutions (Nonprofits, Thinktanks , academia and enterprises) in the social development industry . Many reports such had been cited and discussed in my varied opinion pieces for newspapers and many were a part of conversations in my podcast series, Apna Wallet, Duty Queens and FeminisTea (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR0HiPAzmjTBGrCbEz-KF4g).
Like many millions of women, I too as a Pakistani woman personally underwent many gender, socioeconomic class, ethnic and marital status-based biases and discrimination affecting my personal peace and professional growth at crucial stages of my life. What I learnt from all those hurtful happenings is that inequality, insensitivity and patriarchy are some of the most stinging realities of our world. Data and laws are mere boosters for plausible changes in the condition, not necessarily the position of the wretched of the earth and children of the lesser god. Beside frameworks of policy an equal world can be created where all can be accommodated, fed and respected.
This enterprise is also known as feminism or atleast one expression of the latter. I understand this label causes different reactions among many people including many good and popular political leaders. But, leaving aside the insistence on nomenclature, I wonder and wonder that should the economies of the world in general and, we the women in particular, wait (and by not advancing in gender equality and empowering women could not add $12 trillion to the global economy) for another 300 years to dismantle patriarchy and remain a bonded labour to inequality?