Speakers at a symposium said that women’s empowerment should not be considered as man vs woman or West vs East, it is just like giving due rights to all human beings which they deserve. They said that there was a need to remove cultural barriers to give space to women and the women should also learn to respect other women as well. They were addressing a symposium organized by Punjab University Department of Economics on “Women’s Economic Empowerment: Evidence-Based Policy” at PU Law College Auditorium here on Thursday.
PU Vice Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmad, Members Provincial Assembly Massarat Jamshed Cheema, University of Home Economics VC Prof Dr Kanwal Ameen, University of Okara VC Prof Dr Zakria Zakar, Chairman Department of Economics Prof Dr Mumtaz Anwar Chaudhry, Dr Rubina Zakar, civil society members, faculty members and a large number of students participated in the event.
Addressing the symposium, Prof Niaz Ahmad said there were various levels in any society and without understanding social system, which had an important role, gender-based problems could not be solved. He said that as vice chancellor, he did not feel any time that women were lesser than men. The VC said that on important administrative position, where he could appoint men, he had appointed women and they never disappointed him in running the administrative affairs and they were performing their job in an excellent manner.
Ahmad said that the PU administration had also appointed female faculty members as dean and heads of all institutions under faculty of behavioral and social sciences. He added that it was also admissible under the law that he could have appointed a male as head of some of the departments in the faculty but he chose to appoint senior most female faculty member on merit which proved that there was no gender bias in PU. Prof Niaz said that the situation regarding women’s rights in Pakistan was far better than some years ago. He further reminded that Pakistan elected Benazir Bhutto as the first female prime minister of Islamic world and Fahmida Mirza as Speaker National Assembly who performed well.
The VC PU said that now it was the time of survival of the fittest so whoever is the best, he or she would make his or her place. It should be our preference to give education to women if we wanted to educate our nation and society.
In her address, MPA Massarat Jamshed Cheema said that women should be strengthened in Pakistan and they should work shoulder-to-shoulder along with the men. She said that if we promoted the idea of ‘partnership’ instead of ‘competition’ and avoid the thinking of men versus women, we could get better results. Massarat also said that we must train our children in the way so that they could respect mothers, sisters, daughters of others. She added that the government was working for the welfare of women and since females were good in number in the parliaments, they were now making laws for the rights of women. She said that our slogan should be “partnership, not competition”. UHE VC Prof Dr Kanwal Ameen said that we all must learn to respect woman as a woman and appreciate her role in socio-economic development.
Prof Kanwal said that it was the need of the hour to provide safe and hygienic environment to women. She said that economic empowerment of women did not guarantee that they were really empowered and getting rights. For instance, she said, maids working at homes earned for their husbands who were mostly addicts. She said that still they were beaten by their husbands.
OU VC Prof Dr Zakria Zakar said that in a patriarchal structure, there were some certain sanctions on women and if they were removed, women would emerge and play a role in development. He said that we had restricted social space for women and if we remove cultural barriers, women rights situation would improve further. He said that we must not consider women as incapacitated persons and we needed to change such culturally and historically transmitted perceptions. He said that around 70 percent students of Okara University consisted of females who also performed their domestic jobs as well. He said that we needed to give space to women in public life and promote culture of equality. However, he said, we were not ready to give some concessions to the women which might ease their daily life.
UO VC also said that we must allow all the men and women to be treated as normal human beings. He said that out of the total forms of violence the women face, 90 percent was domestic violence which was highly deplorable. He said that women should also help other women and take care of their rights. Prof Dr Mumtaz Anwar Chaudhry said that PU would continue to provide guidelines on national affairs.
He said that PU Department of Economics had organized this program for socio-economic empowerment of women. He said that PU had also taken several actions to strengthen women at campus and forty percent of PU faculty members were women. He also thanked the speakers, organizers and participants of the symposium.