Ambassador (retd) Fauzia Nasreen
Every year on 8 March International Women’s Day is celebrated to renew the global commitment to empower women and uphold their rights safeguarded in a number of conventions and covenants. In 2021 8th March is being celebrated under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and very aptly the theme is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world”. It reflects the realities of the current environment hugely influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spirits however, have not been dampened amid hopes for a better recovery. The rapid response by the scientists and medical community has rekindled aspirations for moving beyond the COVID-19 environment building the post COVID-19 world on the pillar of international solidarity. In this women and girls are equal partners aspiring to enjoy the support of all stake holders.
In the struggle against the pandemic women and girls have been at the forefront and at the same time they have been impacted in multiple ways. Women have shouldered the responsibility as health workers, caregivers, innovators and community leaders. They have risen to the call of duty and shown exceptional dedication which has been recognized and commended worldwide. Women leaders have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities as heads of state and governments and as professionals. The imperative of their integration and mainstreaming has been reinforced. It presents an opportunity to explore ways to promote their rights as equal contributors to growth and development.
Transformative gender equality has become critical under the current conditions now more than ever before. The 2030 Sustainable Development agenda cannot be achieved without an equitable participation of women in the entire spectrum of development; political, economic, socio-cultural, security, science and technology. Since gender equality and the empowerment of women is the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) almost all the goals and targets touch upon this aspect in a substantial way. Women participation and leadership is essential together with a consensual approach towards issues pertaining to the rights of women and girls in different spheres. Unified approach that would help achieve women’s rights rests on participation and decision making as well as supportive legislative or legal framework. Rationale for such a unified approach is that
- Full political participation in public life ensures that voice of women is heard on all issues affecting the lives of women.
- In order for them to play an active part in public and private sectors their capability matters immensely. Hence their health and wellbeing, solid nutrition along with quality education and skills would be necessary.
- Education matters for gender equality. We are all familiar with the close link between a girl’s education and social and economic development. Societal commitment to upholding women and girls’ right to education would go a long way in building their capacities.
- Women participation in economic and commercial activities has twofold benefits; first it gives financial independence to women and more importantly it boosts the overall economic growth of the state and society. Creating an enabling environment would be a step in the direction of promoting smart economy.
- Poverty eradication measures need to ensure equal access to financial and other resources of the state and society which includes agriculture productivity and entrepreneurial assets.
In our efforts towards securing the rights of women and girls, society has an important role to play. Without that support and general understanding the task becomes arduous. Most importantly as SDG 5 calls for ending “all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere” as well as ending “all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres…” In order to bring about a transformative shift the entire notion and regressive ideas associated with women would be required. Transition to a more conducive structural paradigm would be necessary-along way to go but the new normal does create an opportunity to do so. This opportunity can be capitalized within the context of post COVID-19 recovery.
The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees rights for all. There are a number of laws that have been passed over the last several decades. However, it is the enforcement and implementation of the laws which is deficient. For this structural adjustments and changes are needed bringing about a transformative change in approaches towards women issues. Pakistan will stand to gain by moving along the global paradigms on development, growth and gender equality. SDGs do provide space for accommodation of national priorities and local environment. But for our own sake that environment must be made sustainable by pro-women rights-based approach
The author served as Ambassador of Pakistan in different countries of the world. Lastly, she remained posted as Advisor COMSATS Secretariat on SDGs.