The International Women’s Day, which was recently celebrated across the world, including Pakistan, reminds us of achievements in women’s rights as well as the challenges women continue to face in their personal and professional lives. It brings issues such as gender equality and inclusion into the limelight. In an effort to highlight women’s issues in Pakistan, the Social Enterprise Development Centre (SEDC) at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) is arranging an international conference on ‘Gender, Work and Society: Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects for Women’s Economic Empowerment’ on 22-23 April 2017 supported by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
In Pakistan, gender determines access to resources, employment, power relations and individual agency. Gender inequality is a contentious issue in Pakistan and requires meaningful debate. Since 2001, SEDC has worked to bring gender equality into the mainstream, through its various projects, workshops, trainings and policy discussions. As part of this effort, 2017 conference will provide an interdisciplinary platform to question the patriarchal norms and structures that surround women’s everyday struggles in Pakistan and beyond. The conference will bring together a diverse range of perspectives, for over a 100 participants from around the world will participate and present at the conference. It will provide a platform for participants to explore, critique and debate recent trends, innovations and conditions related to gender, work and society, broadly defined.
The conference will provide a platform to policy makers, professionals and academics to come together and collectively deal with the issue across a number of themes. Experienced professionals in both the corporate and development sector will engage with academics in debates regarding the impact of increasing women’s access to economic opportunities. Topics related to reforming the social and legal structures in the country in order to reduce gender based violence and exclusion will also be under discussion. The conference will highlight the benefits of promoting entrepreneurship opportunities for women and the role NGOs have played in empowering women in the past few decades.
The participation of key feminist scholars and policymakers, such as Dr. Nafisa Shah, Dr. Saba Gul Khattak, Dr. Farzana Bari, and Nazish Brohi will provide attendees with a first-hand view of how women’s issues in Pakistan have historically, politically and economically been dealt with. Dr. Edwina Pio from Auckland University New Zealand will also be speaking at the event about her vast experience as an international feminist scholar. LUMS’ own gender expert and Dean of the business school, Dr. Jawad Syed will also be sharing insights from his research on gender and diversity with the participants. The research presented at the conference and the debates that we hope will emerge from it, will be used to begin a broader and better informed platform for gender in development and policy.