In Pakistan, merely 20% of the women form part of the labor force. Most women are either married off early or take up their role as homemakers. Women who get jobs are paid 34% less than men. That’s a lot of alarming facts and figures to digest, right?
A society marred by cultural and religious issues prefers women to be less educated and financially independent. After all, it is easier to mold the personality of a naïve woman according to what society deems fit.
Stuck in abusive marriages and stripped of the right to inheritance, many women face violations of basic human rights. What Pakistan needs now is education, awareness, and skill development to empower women.
Despite coming from lower-class backgrounds or hailing from strict families, many women have ended up making a name for themselves.
Despite no formal education, others have been able to stand proudly on their two feet. All because of skill development and vocational programs!
What Are Skill Development Programs?
Skill development vocational programs in Pakistan allow women from slum areas and lower-class backgrounds to adopt a skill and master it. From sewing and beauty courses to teaching computer courses and graphic design, women are given a chance at a new, empowered life.
One of the reasons many women never get out of abusive relationships and families is the financial dependency on the male family member. To financially empower women, it is necessary that they either possess a formal education, a skill, or both.
If given the opportunity to ace a skill, women hailing from underprivileged backgrounds with no proper access to education are most likely to become independent women. Capitalizing on these skills can help them reap financial benefits, which will help them put food on the table and provide the mobility and freedom to choose how they wish to live.
Unpaid Care Work And The Informal Economy
Women from marginalized backgrounds are often victims of unpaid labor in an informal economy. Those who work outside the home, for example, women working in the fields, are mostly unpaid laborers, their work and efforts unaccounted for.
Women in the informal economy cannot ask for the labor protection that formal employment provides. That means more exploitation of women and their work.
When women actively work and form part of the workforce, living standards go up. That benefits the economy in terms of growth and increases women’s access to job opportunities in the future. It also bridges the gender wage gap, leading to a generation of strong, independent women.
The more women actively participate in economic growth; the easier it is for the coming generation of women to enjoy safer workplaces, gender-friendly services at workplaces, and equal wages.
A Generation Of Empowered Women
Empowered women raise an empowered generation of women. The skills formed through vocational programs positively affect one woman and her future children. It will pave the way for future generations to understand and enjoy their rights and actively fight for them.
Saleema Habibullah’s story proves how empowering one woman empowers the whole society. An Afghan refugee and a survivor of a bombing accident, Saleema received skill development training in embroidery and tailoring.
Not only is she financially empowered now, but she actively provides the same skills to the girls in the area so they can stand on their own two feet.
“When you empower a woman, you empower the whole world.”
Ruth Mumbi, Founder, and National Coordinator for Bunge La Wamama, Kenya
According to a UN report, when women earn, they re-invest 90% of the income in children’s healthcare, food, shelter, and education. These earning members of the household contribute to long-term economic growth and create social benefits for their families.
In the underprivileged section of society, there are more mouths to feed than hands to earn. Women can improve their living standards when provided with training and skill development. That means the children get to go to better schools and have better access to healthcare facilities.
Saminas’ story is living evidence of how vocational programs help empower women. Hailing from an underprivileged background, Samina received vocational training in fashion design, handicrafts, and crochet work. She now runs a successful home-based business making quilts, curtains, bed sheets, etc.
“There were times when we only ate once a day. Now we eat well twice a day and can also entertain guests”, says Samina.
Right To Reproductive And Sexual Health
Women in Pakistan continue to fall victim to the wishes of the family, which would prefer a son to a daughter. That leads to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion methods, and deaths due to childbirth. Throughout all of this, the right to reproduction is more often than not violated.
Making women empowered and financially independent will curb this issue to a greater extent. Moreover, women who work are far more careful with family planning. To be pregnant or not, the right resides with the women and should be exercised only by them. To be able to exercise this right, financial empowerment plays a pivotal role.
Social Justice And Development
Education and awareness, these two things can take the world from a dark place to a place of hope and justice. A generation of empowered women are more likely to fight for their rights, stand up for what is right, and make a difference, if not a social revolution.
Women and girls, often subjected to violence and abuse, can also take better care of themselves if they can escape it.
Women In Leadership Roles
Women in leadership positions have a stronger impact on society and are role models for younger girls to look up to. That also means a safer working environment and stricter workplace harassment policies to ensure women are protected at all costs.
Skill development training may sound insignificant to many, but it paves the way for a stronger and more empowered generation of girls. By giving them freedom and financial independence, many have made a successful impact and have made a name for themselves. After all, the future is female!