Woman only make up 26 per cent of the workforce, despite constituting 49pc of the total population. By ensuring the financial inclusion of women and girls, Pakistan can boost its gross domestic product (GDP) by 33pc.
These views were expressed by speakers at a youth dialogue on "Generation equality: Realising women's rights for an equal future". The session was organised by UN Women Pakistan, the United Nations' entity for gender equality and women empowerment, and the National University of Sciences and Technology (Nust) in Islamabad.
The event commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which was ratified in 1995 and endorsed by 189 governments at the fourth World Conference on Women in China.
Speaking at the event, Nust Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Pro-Rector Dr Nassar Ikram, while highlighting the varsity's initiatives to urge more women to enter technical fields, said: "Education is the most important means to empower women and girls and will enable them to take forward the gender equality agenda."
His remarks were followed by a panel discussion focusing on the Beijing Declaration and the importance of equal pay, sexual harassment, and women's equal participation in politics and decision making. The panel was moderated by Nust faculty member Dr Seemab Latif.
UN Women Asia Regional Director Mohammad Naciri said: "It is unfortunate that we have been fighting for women's rights for so long. As the world commemorates 25 years of the Beijing Declaration, it’s time to push hard for advancing gender equality.
“Patriarchy is essentially a social norm. We need to disassociate patriarchy from men. It is important to change the mindset, speak with new generations without discriminating against men and women so that we can effectively deal with preconceived notions built on gender discrimination.”
He also appreciated that Pakistan was one of the countries to have recognised transgender persons as a third gender and was legislating to protect their rights.
Meanwhile, Punjab Assembly Standing Committee on Gender Mainstreaming Chairperson Uzma Kardar maintained that Pakistan is committed to meeting the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“To make sure we leave no one behind, we must sensitise communities. Gender equality should come naturally to the youth. When women earn more medals in universities, why do they get less opportunities in practical lives," she lamented, adding that she was confident that the coming generation will witness gender equality in their lifetime.
Maya Zaman, an entrepreneur, said that the economic empowerment of transgender persons was pivotal for ending violence against them.
In her closing remarks, UN Women Deputy Country Representative Aisha Mukhtar said: “Inequality has become a norm. Everyone does not have access to equal opportunities and rights.
"Women and transgender persons are more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. This needs to change. We need to challenge gender norms. And we need to work together to accelerate gender equality actions,” she concluded.