“To bring about real change, there needs to be a shift in the general environment at home and work”, says Dr Nida Hussain, Pro-Chancellor of Ziauddin University. She was sharing her views in the 17th Interactive series on ZU Dialogues, titled “The Power of Gender Diversity in Shaping a Progressive Pakistan” at Ziauddin University (ZU).
The purpose of this dialogue session was to promote greater representation and inclusion of individuals of all genders in various fields and industries, raise awareness about the importance of gender diversity, and create a more equitable and just society where individuals of all genders have equal access to opportunities and resources.
While discussing the reasons behind the gender gap in the ZU Dialogue Dr. Nida said that the reason why the gender gap is not prevalent in our leadership roles is that we are committed to equal opportunities and do not discriminate. It sets the tone for the entire organization. The students of Ziauddin University mostly come from enlightened backgrounds where they understand the significance of women’s empowerment. We and most other universities have harassment policies in place, and we manage such cases when they arise. However, giving an open voice to victims and making them literate to come to the workplace is different from dealing with the work environment.
Barrister Shahida Jamil, former federal minister objected to the title of the session by saying, “The Power of Gender Diversity in Shaping Progressive, Pakistan”. Firstly, I would like to clarify that the goal of Pakistan’s creation was to have a separate homeland where discrimination would not exist. Therefore, when we discuss gender diversity, it is with the aim of creating a more equitable society where discrimination does not occur”.
“Secondly, I would like to highlight that Pakistan faces some unique challenges when it comes to implementing gender diversity, particularly in rural areas where there are different cultural norms and values. However, despite these challenges, we have made significant progress in recent years, such as in 2001 when we set a benchmark of having 33 percent women in parliament. This led to a rise in the number of women in leadership positions at the local level, and more women’s voices being heard in the assembly. It is essential not only to have representation but also to empower women to make their voices heard” she continued.
Addressing a larger issue, which is the lack of understanding of these issues by political parties themselves Mahtab Akbar Rashidi a Politician said, “many parties are hereditary and lack true democracy, which can hinder progress in advancing women’s rights. It is essential to look to leaders like Benazir Bhutto, who fought tirelessly for women’s rights and challenged societal norms. While our religion grants women equal rights, societal cultures and traditions can often prevent progress”.
“Additionally, it is disheartening to see women being each other’s worst enemies and not supporting each other. Despite these challenges, progress has been made, such as raising the age of marriage to 18 years old. Change can only come from within oneself, and social media can be a powerful tool for creating awareness and change. However, it is essential to promote this change without forcing or pressuring women, as this can be counterproductive to the goal of achieving gender equality” she added.
During the dialogue session Ameena Saiyid, founder of Adab Festival added her opinion by saying, “It is imperative that women are formally brought into the workforce, including those who work from home and are not officially recognized, such as those who do embroidery, stitching, and garment work alongside their household duties. This issue is not unique to Pakistan but rather a global one, with only 5 percent of women holding senior management positions despite 40 percent of all women in the world working”.
“From a social standpoint, it is crucial that women not only have opportunities but also receive equal pay, promotions, and chances to grow. Fortunately, women are now portrayed as strong characters in advertisements and dramas, promoting gender diversity, which is a positive step. The economy of Pakistan will also drive change as both men and women need to work and earn money”, she concluded.
In his concluding remarks on this occasion of the 17th interactive series of ZU Dialogue, Vice-Chancellor of Ziauddin university Prof. Dr. Syed Irfan Hyder said that when we talk about social change, social diversity, and social justice, we must be prepared to consider a range of perspectives and ideas. Only through this process of engagement can we begin to move towards creating a more just and equitable society for all.