Promoting Women and Girls in Science is an Imperative at all Levels
WiLAT Pakistan participated in a forum of women leaders in Karachi to promote significant participation in Science and to create an action plan for hastening full and equal participation of Women and Girls in Science.
11 February is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. However, for Pakistan, it is a reminder of a collective need to create dialogue and create an action plan to improve parity of girls and women in Science before 2030 which is estimated will take 136 years if it continues as status quo. It was highlighted that Pakistan ranks dismally at 153rd out of 156 countries on the ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021’ published by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The country lags far behind other South Asian countries on all the sub-indexes of gender parity, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.
Additionally, Pakistani women face several cultural and societal barriers even for those who have attained education in the fields of Science and Technology. Doctors and scientists are unable to practice; many educated women drop out from the workforce or never enter it due to family reasons - without a way to come back to the workforce. For the poorest of the poor, this is even worse because they are an invisible majority without access to knowledge and communication- making them the most vulnerable.
Ms Nasreen Haque, Vice President SZABIST and Chairperson Women in Logistics and Transport, Pakistan highlighted that there is insufficient data available on gender from the workforce and advancement perspective. This lack of visibility is isolating women in general and internationally creating a problem because we don’t see positive role models for our women. A portal and a dedicated think tank need to be purposely built to collect, benchmark and highlight steps in progress or lack thereof.
Additionally, to enable safe urban and rural spaces like this one needed to be developed where women can deliberate, work, study and do business. For this Women need to participate more in logistics and transport careers to enable safer solutions for their problems. WiLAT Global has been working for 10 years to promote diversity, empowerment and inclusion in the sector.
In her overview to the roundtable, Dr Nuzhat Khan, Founder of Gender Connect Portal and First Woman Oceanographer of Pakistan mentioned that progress in Pakistan will be delayed if women’s participation in the workforce is not increased and we must close the gaps between outputs of higher education and the requirements of the job market.
Ms Yasmeen Lari, globally acclaimed architect and founder of the Barefoot Entrepreneur Movement, highlighted that empowerment is needed at all levels but the most vulnerable are those at the bottom of the pyramid and in rural settings. It is our responsibility to reach out to them and help them break the cycle. It was added that capacity building for small scale entrepreneurship, health education from the bottom up is also needed urgently. This group of people are just waiting for someone to hold their hands to break out of the poverty cycles through entrepreneurship and low cost, low tech interventions needed to make their lives better and provide stable livelihoods.
Amongst other prominent women who attended were Ms Seema Taher Khan, Khursheed Kotwal, Jehanara, Afia Salam, SharBano, Ayesha Masood Khwaja and others who also attended the seminar.
The collaborative activity was well received by the media who promoted the initiative extensively.
This is the coverage in a local paper: