Economic development, if it aims to be meaningful and wholesome, should include people from all segments of society without differentiating on basis of various social strata. In this case, the only significant economic progress that can be made must include women. Since 1947, Pakistan inherited a menacing case of poverty upon its inception – and that abject lack of finances hit women the most pervasively. Although each government vowed to improve the life standards of women, a thorough plan has rarely ever been achieved that focused on the equitable distribution of development benefits especially for the lower segments of the population.

Ideally, there should be no class demarcation as class and gender combined create a gridlock of complications for women. Those hailing from lower-middle to lower socio-economic backgrounds suffer the most repression in terms of financial, social pressure and patriarchal violence. For this reason, it is imperative to design a governmental plan that functions on a horizontal exchange of empowerment instead of charity, which is a vertical mechanism wherein the donor remains in the position of power while the recipient continues begging. Political icons can articulate their goals as much as they want but it comes down to one basic question: Do they deliver? And sadly, it is apparent that most do not.

The aim should be providing women with access to economic and educational opportunities as well as more opportunities to exercise their autonomy. A legal framework that grants them protection from orthodox backlash will empower them to take on bigger and even more significant risks. Furthermore, women must be integrated into every level of policy making while formulating and implementing micro-economic and social policies. It is obvious that isolating gender does not work. Current conferences on women leadership are commendable but we won’t achieve much until we take it from the grassroots level.