By Inamullah Marwat
December 6, 2018
According to latest research entitled “Population and fertility by age and sex for 195 countries and territories, 1950-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 201”carried out by University of Washington and published in The Lancet, some 33comparatively well developed countries in Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Western Europe (e.g. Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and other states) are at face with the challenge of insufficient population which is nothing less than a bane for any economy, keeping in view its need for an appropriate segment of the society to be in working age, but that is not the issue highlighted in this op-ed.
Among the leading contributors to the decline in population in these states because of low fertility rates observed, as per the research-not in explicit terms but in an implied way, the authenticity of which can be testified in future research-is educational attainment on the part of women for pursuit of their professional careers. In other words, in catching up with modernity through professional pursuits, women find it hard to have more children or they delay to have them in an environment which is not conducive enough to recognize them fully with packages like maternity leave and other incentives for what they come across in the wake of child birth. Thus, modern aspiring women in these states seem like, as that can be implied from the research’s findings, having children more like a cog in their professional pursuits and thus these states are pitted against a population crunch.
The takeaway for me from the study is not how the states are being at face with the population crisis rather the issue — if looked from a feminist perspective — in its lap carries one of the perennial issues with which both east and the west are grappling with but in different ways because of being at face with its different facets. And that issue is to tap the untapped potential of women through full recognition in society which has been inhibited by an indifferent history, both to her sexual identity and what she does.
So much is being talked about women empowerment through theories like feminism both in the East and the West, thanks to all the feminist waves that turned it into a discourse through significant strides. But still its discourse is being challenged in different and evolved ways. In the East, predominantly its discourse advocates women to catch up with modernity through pursuit of professional careers as they are too much into keeping the family intact roles and its discourse is constantly being evolved when some make it to top professional echelons inspiring those lagging behind and is being challenged when some become prey to social castigation for standing for what they want to be at the cost of rejection of social norms.
In the West, the discourse of women empowerment is dealing with strains coming in the wake of modernity which the East is aspiring. As is reflective from the study’s findings, how women hell-bent professional pursuits in the west in an environment in which they see themselves not being recognized fully has been costing the states with population deficit. Moreover, in the light of study’s findings, it seems women in developed countries, similar to the ones in developing countries, are still battling for occupying space and because of not having been recognized fully they are crazily trying to fit in through pursuit of their professional careers in the male dominated world.
The East and the West might be at different positions with respect to accommodating women in the mainstream but there is one thing that is common between them and that is: women still have not been recognized fully for who they are and what they do. This lack of holistic recognition of women in both the East and West has robbed the society of the balance that comes in the wake of gender inclusiveness in any society. There is still a long way to go to actualize gender inclusive society in which women don’t make compromise over being a woman in order to play a role in the mainstream on parity level. And the way to bring into existence such an ideal pluralistic society vis-à-vis gender is to detect subtle ways, whether they are advertent or inadvertent, in modern life through critical debate which don’t pay heed to women recognition fully and because of being glossed over keeps the society at bay from having gender inclusiveness in letter and spirit. Such an informed discourse can really help actualize a true gender inclusive society
Inamullah Marwat is MPhil qualified with major in International Relations.