By Asim Shahzad
“While all youth needs to be mobilized and provided with opportunities for a robust, dynamic and progressive Pakistan there is an urgency to focus on young women because of the prevailing gender inequality especially as its gender inequality index stands at 151 out of 153 countries.
Govt. of Pakistan must focus on the social and economic empowerment and enabling environment for young women’s individual agency i.e. the ability to make choices and decisions for one-self”.
These views were expressed by the speakers at a seminar “Intergenerational Solidarity – Creating a World for All Ages”, organized by WISE (Women in Struggle for Empowerment) in connection with International Youth Day 22, here Friday, at a local hotel. A large number of young girls and women, including students, sportswomen, and activists joined the event.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director of WISE said, youth play the most effective role in the progress of any country.
It is to them that a nation builds up or demount. Looking forward to this advantage, Pakistan is one of those few countries that have the largest young population in the world. 64% of Pakistan’s population is between the age group 15-29 years, however, we have yet to take advantage of this youth bulge. Unfortunately, our youths continue to face a lot of problems that no governments looked serious about paying attention to. The successive governments did acknowledge the importance of youth but failed to do anything concrete to tap their potential, she added.
She further said that young women’s economic participation and empowerment is done along three components: Enabling environment that supports young women’s economic empowerment, security, and rights through laws and policies and their reinforcement through institutions; Enhanced economic opportunities that support young women’s access to decent work, increased incomes, financial inclusion and entrepreneurship; and Strengthening women’s agency by supporting their access to decision making and their ability to address discriminatory social and cultural norms.
Lack of access to education and employment, the lack of transport, wrong religious perceptions, gender discrimination, early marriages, absence of safe environments and physical disabilities impede the potentials of our female youth, she said while pointing out the challenges being faced by young girls.
The young community leaders, students and girls in sports spoke about their micro struggle for transforming themselves, families, communities and the society. Expressing their views on this occasion, the speakers and participants said there are infinite skills hidden in our youth that go unrecognized.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the govt. needs to leverage the full potential of youth. Now is the time to address the interlinking challenges of gender inequality, poverty reduction, social inclusion and health care. They call on the government of Pakistan to work for the betterment of its youth and let them be the strength of our country.