Every year on International Women Day, we all take the opportunity to recognise two things; the remarkable achievements of women across social, economic, cultural and political spheres, and the barriers that prevent other women achieving their true potential.
It’s no secret that women across the world continue to face discrimination based on gender. In fact, The World Economic Forum has predicted that the global gender gap will not close entirely until 2186, which seems simply scandalous in today’s fast-moving, modern world.
The problem is particularly pronounced in South Asia where socio-cultural norms mean that women are perceived as of lower value than their male counterparts, thereby constantly facing gendered barriers at all levels.
In India, less than five per cent of women have sole control over choosing their husbands, while almost 80 per cent of women need to seek permission from an authority figure, just to visit a health centre.
Meanwhile, Pakistan ranks second to last on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report – showing how women are systematically denied access to important social facilities including education, health, political and economic opportunities.
This year, the International Women’s Day campaign theme ‘Be Bold for Change’ aims to stimulate ground-breaking action to drive the greatest change for women. As an ambassador of the British Asian Trust, it gives me immense pleasure to see how the charity is being bold when it comes to tackling the issue of women’s economic empowerment
By working with seven local and highly effective partners in Pakistan, the British Asian Trust aims to support women in achieving greater access to and control of their financial and physical assets, thereby elevating their role in society.
It is targeted and tailored work this that will support and benefit women across the country by providing them with quality training in market driven skills and knowledge including business development, leadership and financial literacy. It will also facilitate access to decent jobs to ensure that women can achieve career progression and a boost their skills and earnings.
Going further yet, the programmes will also help to develop entrepreneurship to ensure that women can invest in their own business and skills, to work in a way that suits their needs. It will also prioritise creating links to both market and employers for women who are trained and need jobs, or who are selling their goods.
And crucially, the work will ensure that financial inclusion is interest-free and available to women who can use this to develop their businesses and build working from home opportunities.
To find out more about the British Asian Trust and its life-changing work across South Asia, please visit: https://www.britishasiantrust.org/
About Meera Syal CBE
Meera Syal, actress, author and British Asian Trust ambassador.
A British comedienne, author, playwright, singer, journalist, producer and actress, Meera Syal CBE is one of the UK’s best known Indian personalities. She rose to prominence as one of the team that created ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ and is renowned as Sanjeev’s grandmother, Ummi, in ‘The Kumars at No. 42’.
Frequently on television and on stage, Meera Syal wrote the novel and later the screenplay for ‘Anita and Me’. She was awarded an MBE in 1997 and listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy and is one of the longest standing ambassadors of the British Asian Trust.