Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Role of Civil Society in Empowering Pakistani Women

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Role of Civil Society in Empowering Pakistani Women

Article excerpt


Civil society in Pakistan has been playing its role in social, economic and political empowerment of women. Unfortunately, despite of the emergence of vibrant print/electronic media, wide-spread network of women related non-governmental organizations and the focus of political parties on women related issues; a large segment of female population is still struggling hard for the equal status. However, it is pertinent to state that the notion of women empowerment is deeply linked with an over-all change in patriarchal structure of the society, on one side and the truthful understanding of religion (Islam) on the other. We cannot neglect this reality that the growing trend to provide equal opportunities of education and employment to women has contributed to their welfare, but not effective through to make a dent in their over-all well-being. In spite of the fact that more representation is given to the women in legislatures, neither have they suggested remedies for the grievances and dismal plight of women, nor they could suggest the broad framework to improve the role of female socio-economic and political in Pakistan.

KEY WORDS: Civil Society, Pakistan, Woman, Welfare, Gender, NGO


This paper intends to establish a linkage between the issues of women empowerment and the contribution of the civil society, to achieve a respectable status for the female population, within various sectors of the Pakistani society. Pakistani women share 59 percent in the total population of 160 million, but are relegated to the secondary role, due to the growing gender disparity. Although, at some places, women status as an equal member of the society have been marginally acknowledged. However, the considerable gender disparity against women is still a dominant factor in hampering women empowerment. Despite of various legislative and executive measures of the federal and provincial governments in the past, regarding gender issues, the Pakistani women are still facing all kinds of discrimination. The main reason is that even today, when the requirements of the society and women have changed drastically, the patriarchal1 mindset, outdated traditions and cultural norms continue to hold their ground. As a result, women's participation in social, economic and political spheres has been substantially curtailed. It is this kind of gender disparity which raises many questions, particularly when it comes to granting equal status to the deprived women. It was acknowledged in a report that women placement in the Pakistani society was far from satisfactory, as pointed out by Sharma (2003), in a commentary:

In 1997, the report of the commission of inquiry for women observed that socio-economic indicators pointed to discriminatory laws and practices widening the gap between men and women in almost all key sectors. The report also noted that certain form of violence against women had increased and handicaps faced by women in the matter of their legal status had obviously increased in certain areas (pp. 99).

In this regard, civil society organizations in Pakistan, particularly those that concerns women, along with print/electronic media, political parties, academia, professional associations, traditional and non-traditional faith-based organizations (FBOs), have played significant role in educating women, regarding their rights. These women related organizations have gradually taken their current space in Pakistan, after an uphill task, due to the conservative mind-set of the society, strong orthodoxy and over-all absence of any women related social movement in Pakistan. It must be recognized that some other non-state actors, as hinted above have also played some role, for the empowerment of the women. For our purposes, we will concentrate on the contribution of women related organizations, while keeping in view the contribution of media (print/electronic) and political parties, as well.

It is noticeable that women related NGOs have played a significant role in bringing awareness among women, related to their social, economic and political rights, but there are many critics who feel that these organizations do not relate socially and economically to the "victims", as the organizers belonged to urban high middle class. …

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