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The subordination of women is a prevalent issue in many middle-eastern cultures today. The absence of women in the labor force, community and decision making positions in these middle eastern societies is a detrimental drag on their economic and environmental welfare.
Longstanding beliefs and traditions in the muslim culture are geared toward oppression of women and minimal civil rights. Such traditions have held these countries back from keeping up with progressive countries around the globe. Saima Muhammad, a young woman featured in Half the Sky lives in the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, a country which epitomizes this previously mentioned gender disparity. Gender disparity was a formidable obstacle for Saima in her goal to pay off her husband’s three thousand dollar debt. When Saima would simply take the public bus to a local marketplace in order to sell goods for her family, she was scorned by her neighbors as a loose woman.
Loose women contradicted these middle-eastern values, also making life much harder for them. Saima’s house was falling apart to the point where she was forced to send her daughter to her aunt’s house just for safety. Amidst these changes, Saima was constantly beaten by her husband out of pure frustration. Following the birth of Saima’s second girl, Saima’s mother-in-law suggested her husband find somebody else to marry because she wasn’t going to have a boy. These are just a few examples of the environment that Pakistani women, or women in the muslim culture are forced to live in.
Widespread poverty in Pakistan was a driving factor in Saima’s financial inability to maintain her house. Such a debt left by her husband was more of a hardship in these impoverished countries than anywhere else. This is because the means of acquiring goods to start a business are scarce due to minimal economic activity. This economic activity being primarily dominated by men is also considerably unfavorable to women, this is to be examined later on. One obvious result of widespread poverty is a drought of capital.
Lack of capital was one of the most detrimental characteristics of her impoverished country. With entrepreneurial spirits, Saima needed financing if she was going to support her family. the Kashf foundation made this possible by lending Saima small amounts of money at a time. Demand for saima’s bracelets were exceeding supply. Following her entrepreneurial successes, she was met with respect from friends and family. Saima’s story is unfortunately a rare one. With gender disparity existing in a structural and foundational form, most women of Pakistan and other middle-eastern countries don’t get the opportunity to work outside of their house.
Exploitation of women in Pakistan often occurs in many different forms through human rights, education, labor and many other life necessities. Due to longstanding beliefs in this culture, women are responsible for strictly household maintenance. When women are working actual jobs within agriculture or other fields, they are often exploited. Female has always been accompanying male participation within the rural agriculture sector, strictly short-term work available at the time of implant and yield of crops. In Pakistan’s case, women in rural areas are primarily unpaid workers. Women now participate in the political sector but are restricted from any high authority positions in politics due to their low literacy rate which is a result of their subordination. (ESWP)
The exploitation of women for free labor, in addition to the restriction of any access to high positions or the decision-making positions is an example of gender disparity in the labor force.
The dominance of men in all decision-making positions includes the allocation of natural resources. Women have shown through their agricultural work that they are capable of caring for crops and the environment in a sustainable fashion but they aren’t given the opportunity. The methods of which the men of pakistan have decided are appropriate for their country include overgrazing. With a cow population that is higher than that of its people, resources are diminished through this exploitation. When there is drought along with over-exploitation, it results in poverty. Poverty in turn leads to overexploitation which worsens the problem of desertification, It is a vicious cycle. (Voice of America News) This environmental exploitation is arguably a result of the dominance of men throughout decision-making positions, and the lack of interactive opportunities given to women.
Women’s roles in the awareness and education of environmental dangers throughout Pakistan are rare. This is partially a result of an enormous lack of women’s education investments. Increasing women in the workforce is a challenge as well as an opportunity for Pakistan to develop as a country. Clearly Pakistan’s low rate of female literacy is an obstacle to increasing female workforce participation. As education levels rise, labor force participation must also rise for Pakistan to capture fully its return on investment in girls education. (Coleman Pg.1) How can a Pakistani Woman teach her country about their environment, when their country doesn’t teach them how to read? Lack of women’s education throughout these cultures is detrimental to the future of their own economy and environment.
With limited opportunities for women, it becomes difficult to enlighten your community about the environment when they won’t listen to you. Opportunities have recently arisen for women in Pakistan in terms of work. These opportunities are aimed to give women in Pakistan a voice, literally. The report is aimed at creating awareness among media managers and working journalists about the importance of women’s role in the media and radio stations in Pakistan essentially giving women a voice which could be seen as a big step for their country.(BBC) This recent opportunity for women could be the next step towards voicing their opinion about environmental matters and having a role in the decisions of society.
The environmental health of Pakistan is among the worst in the entire world as a result of ignorant methods of waste disposal and poor allocation of resources. The exploitation of resources has led to deforestation, desertification, and drought. The careless disposal of waste resulted in air pollution, gas emissions, toxic fertilizers, and borderline poisonous water. Pakistan’s environment is in ruins. The mayor of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, recently announced the city’s water and sewer system on the brink of collapse.
Air pollution here as well as in other Pakistani cities is estimated to be 20 times higher than World Health Organization standards consider to be average. The country’s percentage of forested land is among the lowest in the world, and the rate at which it is disappearing among the highest. (Kambler Pg.1) The men in control of environmental operations, operate quite unfavorably towards women. The health of women and children are neglected in most development programs involving the widespread distribution of pesticides or fertilizers. Users are not alerted about the mandatory safety precautions, there is now enough evidence to show that peasant and other poor women share the experience of living in an ever degrading environment. (RCOWE)
women naturally possess a more caring and conservative nature of work and it’s shown through their duty in agriculture. The Sindh Rural Women’s Uplift Group helped Pakistani women by allowing ten to fifteen on the farm at a time, under the guidance of female farm supervisors. Paying them the same wages as men and giving them the same responsibilities as men, there was an opportunity for comparison.
The women’s agricultural output was greater than that of men’s, women also had an advantage in Mowing, Grasses for mulch, collecting farm leaves etc. Essentially, the policy instrument of which is being implemented in this situation can be seen as charity or gender equality. Charity is what the Sindh Rural Women’s Uplift Group is doing by giving these women an opportunity to be involved . Gender Equality is shown in the allocation of resources towards women for once instead of being put under the control of Pakistani men.
The policy instrument of gender equality could be implemented towards economic development whether they sound related or not. In pakistan’s case, gender equality would result in an efficient allocation of resources through the implementation of females in authoritative environmental positions. The allocation of resources is better left in the hands of women for the good of the economy. Gender equity can be a determinant of just distribution of resources and income by allowing the female population of pakistan to rise to autonomy level, for once in history evenly distributing resources and income among women and men. An ecologically sustainable scale of the economy would come in time with the progression of women’s authoritative roles in not only agricultural or environmentally based occupancies, but half of Pakistan’s economy.
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