The long journey of “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity” was embarked on by 189 countries of the world in 1995 with the signing of the Beijing Declaration. And, now when the year 2015 is fast moving towards its culmination, a review of implementation of this historic agendum of women’s rights in form of United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is also drawing nearer. In this arduous journey, a number of milestones have been achieved, many goals are soon to be accomplished but regarding some other significant targets, there is still a long distance to be covered. The past, the present and the future of the struggle for women’s rights is highlighting the unprecedented importance of this year’s 8th of March because it is the last year to come during the period specified for the United Nations MDGs; next year, God willing, this day will mark the beginning of the new journey of post-development agenda. Hence, this year’s International Women’s Day is the occasion to salute the struggle the world has been, and is still, doing to achieve the MDG of promoting gender equality and empower women. In order to gauge the struggle on these 8 MDGs, 21 targets with 60 indicators have been fixed. Although the 3rd and the 5th MDGs are directly related to women, all others are, directly or indirectly, also related to women because of their numerical importance the gender discrimination they face.
The first goal is the “eradication of extreme hunger and poverty”. It is also related to reduction in the population of women facing hunger and poverty. All over the world, the women remain poor because they lack sufficient resources, they are not paid their wages, and if paid, the amount is much lesser when compared to their male counterparts. This disparity or disparity leads to hunger, illiteracy and diseases ergo death. The second goal, that is achieving universal primary education, is important for the women in the sense that the education of the women is directly related to employment opportunities for them, better wages, good-quality food, better health and an awareness of their rights. Besides, it also strengthens women’s participation in the matters related to their children’s education, health and decision making.
The third MDG i.e. promoting gender equality and empower women is related to the promotion of women empowerment and gender equality. The fourth goal is regarding reduction in child mortality and it is directly related to the women as it regards to mother and the baby girl. The fifth MDG calls for improving health while the sixth one calls for combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases because it is a bitter reality that women are more vulnerable than men when it comes to be affected by HIV. For this reason, this goal is of import for them as well. The next MDG is to ensure environmental sustainability. Majority population of women across the globe lives in rural areas where there lives are directly dependent on natural resources. As there is no easy access to clean drinking water, hard work to get potable water and deprivation from better sanitary facilities affects their prestige, honour and health. So, this goal too is important for them. The last MDG is to develop a global partnership for development.
For this purpose, grant of non-development foreign aid to the developing countries is necessary for planning and executing the programmes aimed at eliminating deprivations of women and protecting their rights.
The state of affairs regarding Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at national level is promising in some respects while on some fronts it is encouraging whereas in some ambits, it is like “more tests are still to come”. Pakistan has adopted 16 targets and 41 indicators against which progress towards achieving the eight goals of the MDGs is measured. Time series data available for 33 of these indicators reveal that Pakistan is on track to achieve the targets on 9 indicators, whereas its progress on 24 indicators is off track. If we dig into details of progress on these MDGs, then it reveals on us that in MDG 1, progress on one of the three adopted indicators is on track while regarding other two, we are off track. Likewise, Pakistan’s progress has also been severely lagging in Goal 2, achieving universal primary education, as it is off track in achieving the targets set for 2015 in all three indicators.
In the area of promoting gender equality and empowering women (MDG 3), Pakistan adopted following five indicators:
- Eliminating the difference in the enrolment of boys and girls at primary school level
- Removing the said difference at secondary level as well
- Bringing the literacy ratio of young women at par with that of the young men
- Enhancing the share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector as well.
- Achieving proportion of seats held by women in national parliament.
For this purpose, targets were set for indicators 1-4, but unfortunately, we are off track on all of them.
Of the six indicators of the MDG 4 that is reducing child mortality, we have achieved only one and on remaining five, we are lagging far behind a satisfactory position. The fifth of the United Nations MDGs is related to women’s reproductive health. Its indicators included:
- Reduction in maternal deaths during labour
- Giving birth under the care of skilled medical staff
- Improvement in the ratio of adopting family planning measures
- Reduction in fertility rate of women
- At least one check-up by the pregnant woman during the whole pregnancy
Of these five indicators, we are moving in the right direction on only one while on remaining four indicators, we are still off track.
One indicator out of the five adopted has been achieved for the sixth MDG of combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, on one we are on track while for the remaining three there is still a lot to be done.
The seventh MDG is significant for us because most of its indicators we are on the right track. On this MDG to ensure environmental sustainability, seven indicators were adopted and on four of them we are on track whereas on the other three we are off track.
This analysis of the Pakistan Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 depicts the development the country has made in various realms of MDGs between 1990-91 and 2011-12. Nevertheless, the report also suggests that there is still a lot to be done because our performance on most of the MDG targets at the national level has not been up to the mark. If we analyse the indicators in the Pakistan Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 with Pakistan Social & Living Standards Measurement Survey 2012-13, Unicef’s report entitled “The State of the World’s Children 2015,” UNDP’s human Development Report 2014, Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2012-13 and with the data available with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, then the picture of progress on the indicators adopted to achieve the MDGs to Promote Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and to Improve Maternal Health that comes before us is as follows:
- Enrolment of girls at primary school level in comparison to boys has surged to 0.89 as compares 0.73 in 1990-91. Under the MDGs, it is to be raised to 1.00.
- At secondary school level, the index is to be raised to 0.94. At present, it stands at 0.89.
- The literacy of young women in comparison to young men is targeted to be raised to 1. At present, it is at 0.82 but during 1990-91, it was 0.51.
- The proportion of employed women has reached 10.45% as compared to 8.07% in 1990-91. Its target has been set at 14%.
- Similarly, the representation of women in the National Assembly is currently stands at 20.7%. Although not national goal has been set in this regard, yet at international level it is said to be at a minimum of 30%
- As regards the performance of MDG of improving maternal reproductive health, achieving targets in this realm seems next to impossible. Nevertheless a significant progress has been witnessed in its indicators as well.
- The ratio of maternal deaths during labour that was 533 deaths per 100000 cases, has almost halved to reach at 250 deaths. The target in this context is to bring this ratio to as low as 140 deaths. Our performance in this regard has been satisfactory.
- Moreover, the ratio of delivery with the help of trained medical staff has risen from 18% to 52% and it is to be taken to 90% under the MDGs.
The use of family planning measures has crossed the benchmark of 12% to reach 35%. However, it is to be improved to at least 55%.
9. The fertility rate among married women has decreased from 5.4 to reach 3.2. The target that has been set in this regard is 2.1.
10. Similarly, the ratio of at least one check-up during pregnancy from trained medics has risen to 73% from a low of 15%. It is to be raised to a level of cent per cent.
The journey of improvement in gender equality is still on in the country. Although it has not been as paced as international standards would require, yet there has been a significant improvement in recent times as compared to the preceding years. Encouragingly enough, women representation is being witnessed in hitherto uncharted territories too. One such instance is their representation in decision-making processes; as women’s representation in both houses of Pakistan’s parliament is ensuring that women have their say in national decisions. Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2012-13 vividly presents facts regarding women’s participation in decision making. The survey reveals that among the married women in the age bracket of 15-49 years, 11.1% women are absolutely independent when it comes to make decisions regarding their health whereas 39.2% make decisions in consultation with their partner. Moreover, on the matter of visiting the relatives, it has been reported that 8.7% women are free to go by their own choice however 41.2% women do consult with the spouse. It makes clear that only a limited percentage of women is totally independent when it comes to makes decisions whereas a substantial majority does prefer consultation which means that they are increasingly becoming a part of the decision-making mechanism. Moreover, working women are more independent in spending their income than they have been in the past. According to the PHDC survey 2012-13, among the married working women of age 15-49 years, 51.7% are at complete liberty to spend their earnings whereas 35 choose to do so by consulting their spouse. Women’s right to inherit property is one of their most important rights but unfortunately it is often neglected. Though the figures are not satisfactory, yet it is no less than a first raindrop that 2% women own houses and the similar percentage has lands on their names.
Despite significant improvements in the realm of promoting gender equality in the country, there still exists a huge gulf between the award of rights to men and women. Due to this very reason, the World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Report 2014 has places Pakistan at the penultimate place i.e. 141 among 142 countries, where there is a huge gulf of gender discrimination in the fields of health, education, economy and political. And making it diminish gradually in the Post 2015 Development Agenda of the United Nations will be a formidable challenge for Pakistan.
The writer is a researcher and can be reached