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In this concluding part, we wrap up discussion on Gender Bias while looking at situation in Pakistan.
Gender Bias runs in our social fabric, our chemistry and our biology. The major reason, in my view is our Hindu background. Muhammad Bin Qasim is considered to have brought Islam to this part of the world. Prior to that, the entire community in what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was Hindu and Buddhist. Buddhism flourished after Ashoka embraced it and made it official religion. Hindu system was based on severe caste and gender restrictions; Buddhism offered a way of emancipation from the shackle of caste discrimination. MBQ came with a small army, only a part of which stayed back. Islam was introduced but not spread by them. Later, it opened traveling routes and more Muslims traveled and stayed here and went to many inner areas. Sufis and Saints are credited with the real spread of Islam here. When we say spread, it essentially means that the local Hindus and Buddhists were converted. The summary is that barring may be a tiny fraction who migrated here as Muslims, the entire lot of Muslim population is coming from the stock of Hindus, Buddhists, may be some Christians, and pagans. Even after conversion, we continued to live together in the same culture for the next several hundred years; Muslim invaders and dynasties besides. After gaining Muslim majority country, we used religion as a pretext for gender discrimination in ways which it did not command.
A few words about Feminist Movement. In Pakistan, feminist movements, unfortunately, have largely been linked to unconventional liberalism, and thus rejected and condemned by most men and many women. It is also important to understand that the focus of feminist movement has been getting more rights for women; so-called equal rights. The FMs have not strategically worked on creating opportunities for women in workforce. Much can be said on this topic, but it should better be dealt with separately.
Women are ‘recognized equal partners in work’ in the rural areas. They participate equally in most agriculture related work. In fact, they do more as they are still working when men sit idle in the evening and smoke hookah. No one has ever questioned about their participation in work, about working alongside men, about hijab, and all the other stuff which is talked about in the cities. Gender Bias is much more prevalent in urban areas as compared to rural areas.
Gender Bias is not just a coffee-table topic for the elite; it is an issue which is hurting in several ways. Economic pressures are mounting up and running a household with one income is becoming increasingly difficult, but two-incomes are not happening effectively. Women are leading in education and are getting better qualified then men in almost all disciplines. All this achievement is going waste largely. Doctor girls are in high demand for marriage, but they will not work. It is a twisted logic, but it is rampant. Working women do not get fair share of recognition and growth opportunities which is also a waste. The list can be populated further.
We know, we are seriously and rather irredeemably, suffering from Gender Bias. What should be done about it? Some suggestions are given below.
Men are Critical to the Cause – Without participation and sponsorship from men, women emancipation and reduction in Gender Bias shall never be achieved. There are obvious reasons for this. Men are the initiators and perpetrators of this process and they have the power to break the cycle. Even when women fight very hard and try to change the system, the route shall still go through men. In this case, men will be forced to make change while in the former case, it is their own initiative. Active support and sponsorship from men is critical to the cause to gain tangible success. In the developed countries, the process has started here and there, though not everywhere. Pakistan is still nowhere on this map.
Setting Targets is Critical – Before setting up targets for bringing gender diversity and inclusion, it is imperative to understand the value and benefits women shall bring to workplace. Having done that, time-bound targets should be set for hiring and upgrading women to various position. True, that it will require rethinking and remodeling some frameworks, but it is worthwhile to do so.
Fixing Broken Rungs is Critical – Basically it means creating equal opportunities for growth of men and women. By doing so, we shall help women compete on fair ground and in the process, more women shall become available for rising up the corporate ladder. It has been proven beyond doubt that women bring certain elements to workplace which even men need to learn. The whole concept of Athena Doctrine promoted enthusiastically by John Gerzema is based on this.
Gender Bias is a reality seen all around us, and it is nothing to be proud of. It is rather disabling, damaging, discriminating and devaluing a huge number of highly eligible population. It should be taken seriously, and ways should be adopted to eliminate Gender Bias.