10/28/2014, 00.00
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Malala not alone as Pakistan's gender gap gets wider

In its annual report, the World Economic Forum ranks the South Asian nation 141st out of 142 countries in terms of gender inequality. In the past few years, it has lost 30 positions. Nobel Prize laureate Malala is example and incentive for women. A forum slam the conditions of home-based workers, with neither legal status nor rights.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The annual Global Gender Gap report, which quantifies the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracks their progress over time, this year ranks Pakistan 141st out of 142 countries included in the study.

Published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) today, the report confirms that the South Asian nation has a long way to go before closing the gap between men and women. Based on its findings, women remain in a marginal position in many areas and walks of life, in the home as well as in the workplace.

The report measures one important aspect of gender equality, namely the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas - health, education, economy and politics.

According to its findings, Pakistan is ranked 141 in terms of economic participation and opportunity for women, 132 in terms of education attainment, 119 for health and survival and 85 for political empowerment.

Beset by attacks against groups and organisations, abuses and persecution against minorities, and targeted violence against individuals, the predominantly Sunni nation ranks 141st on the overall gender gap index.

Malala Yousafzai is one of the targeted attacks. The Taliban tried to kill the teenager because she openly promoted girls' education in tribal areas. Seriously injured in the attack, she received this year's Nobel Peace Prize, and has become an iconic figure for women's rights in her country.

Since 2006, when the first Gender Gap Index was released, Pakistan's standing has declined as women's economic participation and opportunity declined, falling to 112th position from 141st. Only Yemen ranks lower.

In view of the situation, women's rights, particularly in the workplace, took the centre stage at a recent forum in Faisalabad (Punjab), organised by the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) as part of the Gender Equity Programme (GEP).

Speaking to the gathering, Punjab provincial lawmaker Najma Afzal said that despite some progress, "females face obstacles in life due to a mind-set that puts them in a position of inferiority."

Focusing on home-based workers, AWAM director Nazia Sardar lamented the fact that they "are denied of any form of legal protection".

A women's rights activist, Shazia George, agrees. "Domestic Workers," she noted, "are exploited in the hands of employers".

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