War and peace — why are women not concerned?

By Zubaida Mustafa

The issue conspicuously missing in the debates that take place in women’s forum in Pakistan is that of war, peace and disarmament. Somehow these topics are considered to be of masculine interest only and one hardly comes across women leaders speaking about them — least of all, in meetings of women’s organisations.

That women should keep off such issues in our country is not difficult to understand — though by no means easy to justify. Women have traditionally been kept out of the higher decision-making process or statecraft. Continue reading “War and peace — why are women not concerned?”

Saving habits: cultural factors are decisive

By Zubeida Mustafa

Pakistan’s saving rate betrays its people’s weakness for spending. The nation manages to save only five per cent of its gross domestic product — a figure much lower than in most other Third World countries. The saving rate in India is 20 per cent. It’s 30 per cent in Indonesia and 28 per cent in China and Nigeria.

But in spite of their notoriety for ostentatious living and wasteful habits, it is wrong to think that people in this country do not set aside any of their earnings for the proverbial rainy day. And those who do not manage to save despite their best efforts worry about their inability to save. Continue reading “Saving habits: cultural factors are decisive”

Education sector: shortfall on development side alarming

By Zubeida M ustaf a

THE Sixth Five-Year Plan describes education as “a vital investment in human resources development.” It concedes that the performance of the education sector in Pakistan has remained “utterly deficient.”

In a bid to correct this deficiency, the government has adopted a strategy which seeks to increase the funds allocated to education, to change the distribution of available resources among various subsectors — so that there is greater expansion of primary and technical education while spending on higher education is kept down — and to place greater emphasis on female education.

Now that the first year of the Sixth Plan is over, it should be an instructive exercise to evaluate the government’s education policy especially with a view to ascertaining as to what extent its professed guidelines have been adhered to. Continue reading “Education sector: shortfall on development side alarming”

PQLI: A new yardstick to replace ‘per capita income’

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE was a time when the sole yardstick to measure the level of development of a country was the conventional economic indicator, namely, the per capita income. But economists have now discovered the fallacy of this approach. A country can have a high per capita GNP and yet be severely underdeveloped in terms of the quality of life it can provide to its people.

Very often the national wealth happens to be concentrated in the hands of a few people and the Government’s priorities are such that the social sectors are totally neglected. In such cases the GNP can be quite misleading for it hardly reflects the level of development of the people. Hence economists have come to adopt the basic needs approach and now more emphasis is placed on the social sectors, especially education and health. Thus the conventional economic indicators are no longer the only measure of national development. Continue reading “PQLI: A new yardstick to replace ‘per capita income’”

What the ’81 census reveals

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE situation of women in Pakistan as it emerges from the findings of the 1981 census is still rather bleak. True, the sex ratio, female literacy rate and female labour participation level have registered some improvement over what was recorded in the previous census in 1972. But progress has been so slow in terms of percentages, and the population growth rate so high, that in absolute numbers there are more illiterate women and more women out of the labour force today than there were in 1972. When compared with other countries the position of women in Pakistan emerges as even more dismal.

Continue reading “What the ’81 census reveals”

Population planning: key to all-round betterment

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE ONE factor which has proved to be a major impediment to the socioeconomic development of countries in the Third World is population explosion.

It has now been conclusively established that Governments which have been incapable or unwilling to slow down the population growth rate in their countries have failed to bring about much of a change in the quality of life of their people — whatever be the growth recorded in the sectors which are taken to constitute the indices of economic progress. Conversely, failure to promote the socio-economic development of people results in a high population growth rate.

This was the message to emerge from the seminar on women, children and population held in early November at Jakarta, cosponsored by UNICEF, U’NFPA, the Press Foundation of Asia and the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association. The seminar in which media representatives from seven South and South-East Asian countries participated also had another message to convey. The status of women and children in a society largely determines the rate of population growth, just as an effective population policy has a direct impact on the lives of women and children. It needs no profound thinking to understand the interrelationship between the two.

Social status

Policies directed towards raising the social and economic status of women have a deep bearing on the fertility rate of a country. Thus, a higher literacy level, better health care and employment opportunities for women inevitably lead to lower infant mortality rate (IMR) and a greater willingness to space children and limit the family size. Conversely, a vigorous family planning programme which aims at reducing the number of children a woman gives birth to also helps in improving her status by raising the level of health and nutrition of her family and opening up opportunities for education and employment for her and her children.

These factors are very closely interrelated as is obvious from the statistics pertaining to literacy rate, life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, female participation in labour force and crude birth rate (CBR) in any given Third World country. It has generally been observed that the better educated the women are, the lower is the infant mortality rate, the higher is the life expectancy at birth and the lower is the crude birth rate. This trend is indicated clearly by the data given for the seven Asian countries for 1981 (these are the countries which were represented in the seminar).

Perhaps the most instructive fact to have emerged from the seminar is that the traditional basic indicator of the health of a country’s economy, namely, the GNP, is not really the key factor in determining the quality of life of its people. Thus, among the countries listed above, Sri Lanka has a per capita GNP of 306 dollars as compared with 350 dollars for Pakistan and yet Sri Lanka has a much lower CBR and IMR and higher life expectancy and literacy rate than Pakistan. Political will

U’NICEF has formulated this concept in terms of the PQLI — the Physical Quality of Life Index which takes into account three elements: the rates of infant mortality, literacy and life expectancy at age one. The PQLI is calculated by giving equal weight to each of these indicators. It is significant that many countries with a high GNP per head have a low PQLI. For instance, Brazil is much richer than Sri Lanka in terms of GNP but Brazil’s PQLI rating is 65 as compared with 80 for Sri Lanka.

In other words, it is now clear that the quality of life of the citizens of a country, which is the real indicator of economic development, depends not on its resources alone. The more crucial factor is the political will and social commitment of the Government and the soundness of the policies it adopts on education, health, population planning, women and children.

An integrated approach, however, is essential if progress is to be made in checking population growth. It is an exercise in futility to seek to reduce the crude birth rate through policies which are directed towards one sector but completely ignore the others. While equal importance needs to be given to every aspect of development of women and children, sufficient emphasis should also be placed on family planning. In Indonesia, the Government has chalked out a programme for the development of women and children which should have a widespread impact on society. It is called GOBI-FF. The acronym stands for growth monitoring of the child, oral rehydration therapy, breast feeding, immunisation, family planning and female education.

populationCollectively, these should boost the health and education level of women while reducing infant mortalitv rate. But the most significant aspect of the programme is that it focusses sharply on family planning. A concerted effort is being made at all levels to make people aware of the need of limiting their family size and spacing their children. This is done through a vigorous family planning programme which aims at informing and educating the people, providing contraceptive services and training personnel. This emphasis on family planning has begun to pay dividends. The crude birth rate per thousand has been brought down drastically from 47 in 1955-60 to 37 in 1975-80 to 32 in the eighties.

Seen in the light of the experience of other Third World countries. Pakistan’s record in family planning stands out as being really dismal. The population growth rate is said to be 2.8 per cent which is on the higher side (the Third World average is 2 per cent). According to UN estimates, the total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman can expect to give birth to) in the Third World is 4.64. In Pakistan it is 5.9. The crude birth rate here is also alarmingly high at 41 per 1,000 as compared with the average of 33 per 1.000 in the other developing countries.

Pakistan’s record

The broad thrust of the Population Welfare programme in Pakistan is correct because it seeks to improve the social, economic and health conditions of women and thus reduce fertility rates. But what is sadly lacking is sufficient emphasis on the clinical aspect of family planning without which no progress can be made in actually cutting down on the crude birth rate. The shyness which has marked the Government’s approach to family planning is not quite understandable. There is greater need for frankness in the Government’s approach to the family planning side of the population welfare programme. A discreet stance has not really paid off because it has not created the social environment necessary for educating the people and motivating them. The message of family planning must be conveyed to the people through the Radio, the Television, the Press and also the Mosque as is being done in Indonesia, a Muslim country like ours. The entire Government leadership has to show the political commitment to make family planning acceptable to the masses.

Source: Dawn 20 Nov 1983

 

Population growth: Official programmes misdirected

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE KEY factor which will, in the final analysis, determine Pakistan’s economic and social progress in the coming years is the size of the country’s population and the rate at which it grows. In view of the present population explosion in the country, it is difficult to hold out much promise on this count.

The official population planning programme, which will complete two decades of its existence in 1985, has so far made not much of an impact on the demographic scene. The rate of population growth in this country is one of the highest in the world. In 1901 the area now comprising Pakistan had a population of 16 million. This doubled itself in 50 years, the 1951 census recording a population of 33 million. Continue reading “Population growth: Official programmes misdirected”