Women worldwide are victims of patriarchy in one way or another. From gender inequality to harassment and sexual violence, abuse against women has constantly made headlines.
Although developed countries have introduced policies and made amendments to their laws to protect women, South Asian countries have failed to do so.
In this article, we will discuss what prevents women from growing and becoming empowered, and some of the inspirational women who are leading the way with torches in their hands.
Religion And Culture Limiting the Rights of Women
Women in South Asia are not provided with the same education and job opportunities as their male counterparts.
Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh—the 3 countries heavily influenced by religion and culture have restricted women in all spheres of life.
Many women are married off at an early age, and most are made to quit their education. Women who end up completing their education are not allowed to work afterward.
Although this may not be true for every woman, it is true for most.
Patriarchy, the influence of religion, and culture affect women not only on individual levels, but they also carry negative consequences for society.
Women who are not financially independent are forced to rely on the men of the family. Many women are helpless and have no choice but to stay in abusive relationships due to a lack of financial resources.
One in four women in India endures “intimate violence” at least once in their lifetime.
The fact that they don’t have the education or the skills to provide for themselves is a big obstacle that keeps women trapped in abusive marriages.
In a dominantly male society, economically empowering women would mean giving them the freedom to choose their partners or leave their abusive partners.
It also means the freedom to express themselves and to choose what is best for them. It is crucial to raise the next generation of empowered women.
Financial Independence and Its Positive Effects
Financial independence is the key to reducing or limiting gender inequality in South Asian countries. Women in India earn one-fifth of what men earn.
If you think that’s baffling, keep reading.
Pakistan has one of the highest wage gaps in the world. It may be astonishing to some, but it is a harsh reality for women.
It’s also one of the reasons why it’s imperative to empower women economically.
More women in the workforce and authoritative positions are more likely to bridge the wage gap and pave the way for other women to earn the same as their male counterparts for the same job.
Moreover, they can rise out of poverty and improve their standard of living.
Financially independent women can also take better care of their families and do not have to rely on the men in their families to put food on the table. That means providing education to their children when their husbands fail to do so.
Shazia Sultana’s story proves what economically independent women can achieve. Hailing from Faisalabad, a small Pakistani city, she broke the glass ceiling and opened up her own garment business.
Despite her family’s disapproval and lack of support, she managed to grow her business, provide for her children’s education, and take care of other family expenses.
She is looking to expand her bussing business and has managed to inspire other women around her to take charge of their own lives.
Women Helping Other Women
Not only is an empowered woman able to help herself, but she is also able to help other women around her.
The perfect example is the Kashf Foundation, led by Roshaneh Zafar, a prominent philanthropist.
She is an economically empowered woman who, through her foundation, has empowered other women economically. It provides microfinance to small women-led businesses and subsidizes them to help them grow.
Another example of women’s economic empowerment is Shamim Akhtar, a 53-year-old woman thriving in a man’s world.
She picked up truck driving to help her family rise out of poverty. According to Pakistan’s first female truck driver:
“Nothing is too difficult if you have the will; however, if women make themselves believe that they can’t do certain tasks, then nothing works for them.”
Despite the cultural norms that disapprove of women working, especially what is considered a “man’s job,” Shamim’s strong belief in herself helped her not waver.
Her story is, in fact, living proof of resilience and courage.
“Womenomics,” a term coined by Kathy Matsui, also stresses the idea of economically empowered women.
According to her, women’s economic improvement can improve the economy. When women contribute to the economy through spending and investment, it is usually a result of financial independence.
Not only are new, untapped skills brought into the economy, but standards of living are also improved as men will no longer be the sole earners of the family.
It positively affects the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and encourages the development and growth of the economy. According to research by the IMF, if the participation rate of women is equal to that of men in the workforce, Pakistan’s GDP can rise by nearly one-third.
That means when women enter the workplace, it not only boosts productivity but will also diversify the economy.
Family Planning – A Key To Women’s Empowerment
Educated working women are also more likely to plan their families smartly, considering their economic resources and financial conditions. Both Pakistan and India are experiencing rapid population growth.
Population control could ease the stress on the natural resources of both countries while easing the strain on the economy. Wise family planning, in the long run, will help solve the unemployment problem due to high population growth.
Empowered women are better at exercising their reproductive rights and can influence social change. That means economic empowerment comes with the freedom to choose what you want to do with your body.
What We Can Do To Guarantee Implementation of Women’s Rights
It is crucial to provide your daughters with educational opportunities and treat them like your sons, so there are more empowered women in the near future.
Raising men to be empathetic and gender-sensitive is another fundamental way of empowering women. Gender-sensitive men are more likely to treat other women with kindness and respect.
Focusing on educating your sons instead of “protecting” your daughters can do wonders. Remember, the change starts at home.
To further improve the situation of women in countries like Pakistan and India, donations are a fantastic way of helping underprivileged women.
You can make donations to reliable NGOs who actively work with victims of domestic abuse etc.
Financial independence for women is crucial to ending the vicious cycle of violence and abuse. Economic empowerment will not only end violence but also ensure better education and healthcare for women in South Asian countries and the upcoming generation of women.
Remember, reducing gender inequality is smart economics!