On 04 February, Commonwealth Alumni in Lahore attended a networking reception and panel discussion on the topic, ‘Challenging Gender Roles in Pakistani Society – Women Empowerment and Gender Equality’. Alumni were joined by representatives from the Government of Pakistan, universities, and international NGOs.

The event aimed to shed light on the challenges and opportunities surrounding gender equality in Pakistan and to highlight gender disparity as a pressing issue exacerbated by traditional patriarchal norms and societal expectations.

Challenging gender norms

Following introductions and a short networking opportunity for attendees, the panel discussion commenced.


  • Dr Sarah Qureshi, Aerospace Engineer and Co-founder/CEO, Aero Engine Craft Private Limited
  • Muhammad Shahzad Asif Khan, Director of Human Resource Management, Federal Investigation Agency
  • Sidra Fatima Minhas, an international gender, strategic planning, research, and evaluation professional
  • Osama Rizvi, economic and energy analyst
  • Mariam Malik, international development professional (moderator)

During the panel discussion, the profound disparities in opportunities and outcomes between men and women in Pakistan were brought to the forefront. As the fifth most populous nation globally, with nearly 227 million inhabitants, Pakistan wrestles with significant gender inequality. Women encounter hurdles in ascending to leadership positions and face systemic barriers to participation in the political and public spheres. According to the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2022, Pakistan is placed 145th out of 156 nations for economic participation and opportunity, 135th for educational attainment, 143rd for health and survival, and 95th for political empowerment. While Pakistan has enacted laws such as the Women’s Protection Act, Anti-Sexual Harassment Act, and Women’s Inheritance Rights Act to safeguard and advance women’s rights, challenges persist in their effective implementation and enforcement.

Throughout the panel discussion, speakers addressed various facets of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Pakistani society. They emphasised the imperative to raise awareness about existing gender disparities, challenge traditional gender roles, and dismantle stereotypes. The discussion also delved into policy and legal frameworks surrounding gender equality, pinpointing areas for improvement. Speakers stressed the significance of education in challenging gender roles and empowering women, as well as promoting economic opportunities like entrepreneurship and employment. Health and well-being issues, including access to healthcare and family planning, were also discussed, along with the importance of engaging men and boys as allies in the fight for gender equality. Additionally, the role of media and communication in shaping gender perceptions and strategies to promote positive representations were explored.

Creating networks for women’s empowerment

Commonwealth Alumni in attendance shared their experiences and success stories in challenging gender norms and contributing to women’s empowerment. This highlighted the importance of networking and collaboration amongst those in attendance to create a strong support system and share knowledge, resources, and experiences.

A call to action concluded the discussion, urging all stakeholders to take concrete steps in challenging gender roles and promoting gender equality in Pakistan, emphasising the crucial role of networking in sustaining momentum and fostering a unified movement for women’s empowerment.