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Empowering women financially

Published on 8th Dec, Edition 49, 2014

 

Females are often termed weaker gender, mainly because of their body construction and also because of earning lower remuneration. This phenomenon is not unique in Pakistan but prevails throughout the world, even in the developed societies. If one studies Pakistani society few observations are most evident: 1) parents are reluctant in sending their daughters to educational institutions, 2) the general perception is that females should remained confined to their houses, 3) men normally prefer to marry a girl that has lower education and 4) at work places men are annoyed when asked to work under a women.

Empowering women finally is a completely misunderstood concept as men believe that they lose their superiority if wife has higher education or earns more as compared to him. Most of the couples live in constant state of conflict and to undermine the women, men gradually transfer all the responsibilities to their wives. Very cunningly man hands over key of a car to his wife to alleviate her status but very shortly she realizes that she has become a dignified driver and her duties include buying grocery, dropping and picking children from school and attending parents meeting. At times she has to take care of not only the children (take them to hospitals) but also old mother and father-in-law. The most common excuse is that ‘executives are too busy in managing the business and those running their own business remain away from home for more than twelve hours’.

When it comes to owning of property in urban areas, as a ruler men prefer to retain the title in their names. If the title is in wife’s name in most of the cases it is because men are unable to substantiate the source of income. Since revenue collection regime also comprises of ‘men’ they never bother to find out how a house wife can buy property worth millions of rupees? The reason may be that they also follow the same practice.

The situation is even worse in rural areas because women are denied right to own property. If girl is the only successor the first attempt is to marry her with an older man or even a teenage boy to keep the property within the family. In Sindh, it is a common observation that girls are not married to retain the property within the family. This helps the father/brothers to earn millions of rupees from the property that belong to a female and force her to lead the life of a slave. In many families women are confined to their ‘Royal Palaces’ and even not consulted at the marriage of their sons and daughters. The reason is simple that the feudal lords believe that females are inferior to them need not be consulted in any issue.

 

The trend in urban area has changed a bit, women are allowed to retain title of the property, undertake business ventures and work in offices but the reasons are amazingly very different from the states reasons. As states earlier the tile of the property is in a woman’s name because the man does not have a credible source of income. The much talked about ‘women entrepreneurs’ are mostly shadow of their fathers and husbands as finances are provided and managed by the male members of the family. Worst is the plight of women working in offices as they have to do this because the husband does not have sufficient income to support the family. Often being a major earner in the family the woman suffers due to man suffering from superiority complex (I had read somewhere that superiority complex is the worst form of inferiority complex).

In Pakistan a few businesses are run by women because they are the only heir of their fathers or their husbands are not competent enough to manage the business prudently. In other words the wives earn and the husbands spend that too lavishly. Some of the men belong to this category are feudal lords turned politicians, ghar jamai or the mediators only. These men spend most of their time in seeking permission and financing for the factories and their wives virtually manage the business. These businesses often don’t submit their income tax returns, often indulge in gas and electricity and gas theft or even don’t pay utility bills. Since the husbands are ‘well connected’ no action can be taken against such enterprises.

Coming to the condition of ordinary women, their condition is most pathetic. Though the central bank talks about financial inclusion by acts it denies its own policy. Lending limits for SMEs and micro enterprises are disappointingly low, interest rate charged is very high and financial institutions demand collateral rather than lending on the basis of ‘projected cash flow’.

First Women Bank was established primarily to lend to the weaker gender and it was also expected that it would charge lower interest rate but the situation is contrary. First because of imprudent management the Bank carries huge load of accumulated losses. One has reasons to believe that it has been involved in reckless lending. It is on record that small borrowers are prompt in paying loan installments and the point has been substantiated by Dr. Amajd Saqib of Akhuat. His enterprise lends money mainly to those who are not welcome by commercial banks and recovery is almost 100%.

It may not be wrong to conclude that in this part of the world, dominated by men, women are not encouraged to attain financial power. All sorts of reasons and practices are followed to keep them under the thumb of male members of the family. Many of the NGOs claim to work for the cause of women and are platforms for projecting a few personalities and attain assistance from international donors.

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