The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017 ranks 144 countries on the gap between women and men based on a number of factors like health, education, economic and political indicators. The index helps in understanding of how equitably resources and opportunities are being provided.
Pakistan was ranked 143rd last year and the latest ranking has proved no different with Pakistan still occupying the 143rd spot, with only Yemen beneath it in the ranking. Among the South Asia countries Bangladesh occupying the 47th place in the rankings is best ranked followed by Maldives (106), India (108), Sri Lanka (109), Nepal (111) and Bhutan (124), all way ahead of Pakistan. If we look at the sub indexes Pakistan is ranked 136 in educational attainment; 140 in health and survival, 143rd in Economic participation and opportunity; and 95 in political empowerment.
The 2017 Global Gender Gap Report says, ‘Pakistan remains South Asia’s lowest-ranked country and second-to-last ranked overall. It records some progress on closing the basic literacy gender gap, and on women’s labour force participation, but this is largely outweighed by reversals on estimated earned income and a significant re-opening of the country’s enrolment in tertiary education gender gap according to the latest data.’
Since the first global gender gap index in 2006, majority of countries have managed to reduce their gender gaps. On the other hand, there are a few countries that have either made no progress, or are even falling behind their previous rankings. In Pakistan the situation hasn’t changed much with women still sidelined from mainstream economic activities in much of the country. The dominant religious and patriarchal ideology, harmful social norms and stereotypes have more or less sidelined women despite the country’s constitution granting them equal rights.
Increasing participation of women in national politics is a positive sign that is reflected with Pakistan occupying 95th spot in the political empowerment sub index. However a detailed look shows that all is not well even on this front. Among Pakistan’s 29 strong contingent of Federal Minister’s there is only one woman. Pakistan’s continued poor performance on the index is a cause of serious concern. The incumbent government and religious leaders must step up in this regard but we also need to do a lot more as a nation to ensure that the gender gap is bridged.