Pakistan Bulletin

An up-to-date and informed analyses of key issues of Pakistan.

Editorial: Navigating the Intersection of Gender and Class in Pakistani Society

March 2024

The interplay between gender and class is evident in various aspects of Pakistani society, with women from lower socio-economic backgrounds facing compounded barriers in access to education, health and financial inclusion.

In Pakistan, the dynamics of gender equality are deeply intertwined with class disparities, creating complex challenges that require nuanced solutions. While progress has been made in addressing gender inequalities, the intersection of gender and class exacerbates existing disparities, particularly for women from marginalized socio-economic backgrounds.

The interplay between gender and class is evident in various aspects of Pakistani society, including access to education, employment opportunities, and healthcare. Women from lower socio-economic backgrounds face compounded barriers, often experiencing limited access to quality education due to financial constraints and cultural norms. As a result, they are disproportionately represented among the non-literate and less educated population. In Pakistan, many women, particularly in the agricultural sector, undertake substantial unpaid family work, comprising approximately 66% of all labor, perpetuating cycles of poverty and marginalization. Addressing this issue requires recognizing and valuing women’s contributions, along with implementing strategies to empower them economically and socially.

Similarly, in the realm of employment, according to an article published by Dawn in 2022, approximately 3.6 million women from lower socio-economic backgrounds often find themselves confined to low-paying and informal sectors, such as domestic work, home based work or low paying teaching and nursing jobs, offering poor working conditions and no social security. The intersection of gender and class further restricts their mobility and economic independence, reinforcing their marginalized status within society.

Moreover, access to healthcare is deeply influenced by socio-economic factors, with women from disadvantaged backgrounds facing barriers such as limited access to healthcare facilities, lack of financial resources, and cultural barriers that restrict their autonomy in making health-related decisions. This intersectional oppression manifests in higher maternal mortality rates, limited access to reproductive health services, and higher prevalence of malnutrition among women and children from marginalized communities.

Efforts to promote gender equality must be inclusive and take into account the intersecting identities of women based on their socio-economic status and gender identity. This includes targeted interventions to improve access to education, economic opportunities, and healthcare for women from marginalized backgrounds and underdeveloped regions. Women’s rights movements such as Aurat March have been playing a proactive role in highlighting the various layers of marginalization of women in Pakistani society.

Furthermore, addressing structural inequalities and challenging discriminatory norms and practices are essential for creating an enabling environment where all women, regardless of their class background, can fully participate and thrive. Empowering women from marginalized communities is not only a matter of social justice but also critical for achieving sustainable development and building a more inclusive society for all.

As Pakistan continues its journey towards gender equality, it must acknowledge and address the complex intersection of gender and class disparities. By prioritizing the needs and rights of women from marginalized backgrounds, Pakistan can pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for all its citizens.

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