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UNITED NATIONS: Par­liamentarians from across the world were informed on Friday that Pakistani women were helping in steering the country towards progress with their outstanding performance.

“Yet, like any other society, while Pakistani women have accomplished a lot, more still needs to be done,” delegate Shazia Marri told a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held at the UN headquarters.

She said that the image of conventional stereotype role for Pakistani women had been done away with.

Ms Marri, a PPP member of the National Assembly, said that Pakistan had the honour of electing Benazir Bhutto as its first female prime minister in the Muslim world, followed by Fehmida Mirza as the first female speaker of the National Assembly in South Asia, and Hina Rabbani Khar as the first female foreign minister of Pakistan.

“From parliamentarians to ambassadors, from judges to fighter pilots, the role of Pakistani women in society has remained both vital and inspirational,” she said.

In parliament, she said, women members outshone their male counterparts in attendance and parliamentary business. But in the economic domain, the participation of women in the workforce was low and remained concentrated in the agriculture sector, she added.

The non-agriculture employment for women was predominantly in the informal sector. Their prospects for advancement were inhibited by lack of educational attainment and economic means, she pointed out.

“Added to this, there are cultural constraints and religious extremism that women have to counter,” Ms Marri said.

“With increasing extremism, the challenge for the Pakistani woman has increased tenfold. Not only must she exist and work to make a place within the patriarchal society, but she must also, consistently be on the lookout for intolerant militant hardliners, who feel she has no place in society, and therefore is entirely expendable.”

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017