It has been 69 years since this country, Pakistan, came into being by demanding and fighting for the right to an independent existence. During this time, we have had a woman Prime Minister and we have heard stories from our parents about how women used to ride bicycles and wear whatever they wanted. According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2016, Pakistan ranks 143 out of 144 countries in the gender inequality index, way behind Bangladesh and India which rank 72nd and 87th respectively. Pakistan is also the worst performing state in South Asia and has been for the last couple of years, while Sri Lanka ranks 100th, Nepal 110th, the Maldives 115th and Bhutan 121st. The only country ranked below Pakistan is Yemen (144), while Syria is one place ahead at 142. Pakistan ranked 112th in 2006, the first year of the report. Since then, its position has been deteriorating every year. Pakistan ranked 135th in 2013, 141st in 2014 and 143rd in 2015. The report captures progress towards parity between men and women in four areas: educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment. In its latest edition, the report finds that progress towards parity in the economic pillar has slowed dramatically with the gap — which stands at 59pc — now larger than at any point since 2008. Iceland took the top spot for the 8th consecutive year, followed by Finland in second and Norway in third place. Several developing and emerging markets have also made it into the top 20, but the United States ranks 45.

This report is based upon different factors like educational attainment, employment opportunities, political empowerment and health and survival rate. So when I say anything about the difficulties of belonging to a female gender here, it is the statistics speaking for themselves. The literacy rate indicates 43% for females against 67% for males. Till this day such people exist, especially in tribal areas, who believe that attaining education is considered a stigma for the daughters. The Taliban have left but they have left behind their extremist mindset and it is a complicated struggle to let go of that mindset.

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Fighting for education is only one part of the struggle; the right to put that education into use by having financial independence is a much harder battle. Many parents, even the ones falling into the middle-class of the hierarchy, believe that education is only necessary for the growth of an individual. That is by all means true; however, putting it into use for having a better position financially is also a major chunk of it. The female participation in the labor force is 25% against 85% participation of males. Similarly, estimated earned income for females is $1,745 as opposed to $7,714 for males.

The professional workers have 22% females and 68% males and senior managerial positions have a 3% rate for women and 97% for, yes you guessed it, men. Many of the women are pressurized into marriage at a certain age which makes it hard to make a place in an organization and to climb up to senior positions or to start-up a business herself until there is some form of male support. The support that we refuse to give because a woman’s place is at home with the children. 53% of the females are married by the age of 25 against 21% for the men. The political scenario is even more miserable. There is a 21% female rate in the parliament and 0% in higher ministerial positions. Although women have the right to vote since 60 years, the Upper House seats for women are 16% only.

Women are the representatives of our country and it is really shameful to see these statistics. When more than half of the population in the country is sitting idle at home, the country will never be able to progress in a positive direction. It is said that Eastern and Islamic values give more respect to women. As soon as a girl steps out to make a brighter future for herself, she has to bear and ignore harassment from men who would ogle, comment and touch weather she is in jeans or a burqa. She has to fight for her right to exist in public and fight at home, Is this what we fought for?