Let us not forget that we are living in a world where, Telephones are becoming more pertinent than Toilets ;in 2000, only 12% of the global population had mobile phones subscriptions, and about 60% had access to basic sanitation. Currently the percentage of people with cell phone subscriptions is higher than those using sanitation services. This does not mean that technology is bad but our current over enthusiasm if not obsession with technology especially in the domain of entrepreneurship may need a serious review. It remains a fact that today corporate interests supersede human needs.
The vicious cycle of inequalities is intact and misplaced priorities are nurturing. It is time to challenge every such ineffective policy and divert attention to growth and equality. Very often the spirit of social transformation faces a technical death due to several cost analysis. Is it cost efficient and/or effective? It always sounds so demotivating to awakened dreamers and disrupters. The physician-cum-anthropologist Paul Farmer always dominated my premise when he stated that while providing health interventions to the destitute in Haiti, Peru, Mexico and Boston, he never thought whether his work was cost effective. He simply stated that ‘this was the right thing to do and the humans do right thing to do.’
The only woman Nobel laureate in Economics so far Dr. Elinor Ostrom, who was an intersectional thinker, always worked for women and diverse but excluded social groups. The idea that economics was gender neutral did not fit with her work. Her own experience shaped this approach. She was a pragmatic radical and we can all learn from her. She has warned through her research in her own words that “Inequality is dangerous”.
Recently I was honored to be a part of a distinguished panel, in an international conference, on global economy in DC . Delegates from 24 countries exchanged ideas and meaningful discussion, focusing on the wide-reaching themes and challenges of the global economic landscape. Renowned economist Prof. Dr. Thomas Straubhaar, and author of several books including Radical Justice exposed, in his keynote address, the reality of multilateralism in today’s world and the prevalence of law of power rather than the power of law.
It is disheartening that the modern economic system treats conditions like cultural and physical challenges as liabilities, be it in developed or developing countries. It’s time now for all such stigma to end
This platform again endorsed my two most important learnings in connection with women, entrepreneurship and economy: 1: In a rapidly changing world that was once eaten by software (remember famous saying of Marc Andreessen) and where software is now being eaten by AI, monetized profits rather than social purpose is becoming the ultimate monopoly. This would lead to the death of the desired social impact and there are and there would be increased manifestations of discriminations in our cultures, societies and states.2:Women-led entrepreneurship is the future of social entrepreneurship not only in Pakistan, but globally as well, because when a country invests in women’s’ economic empowerment the profit holder is not an individual woman, but dividends are distributed in the household, family and communities.
For any Pakistani social entrepreneur who works closely with many charismatic women and transgender entrepreneurs of Pakistan, the disturbance, both on digital and actual spaces caused by mere mentioning of the words equality and empowerment of women. In theory, who would not agree that global economy should be more equitable and there should be equal opportunities for all women as well from all countries including Pakistan. War, conflicts or even the threat must not be used as an excuse to strengthen structural patriarchy and cause more deprivation to women and marginalized communities.
Communities of women who face both physical and cultural disabilities do exist in Pakistan, but these factors do not hinder their undying passion for their work. Some credible Non-profits and social enterprises are working with them to facilitate their journey towards self-reliance. In practice one finds clear and not so clear contradictions. May young entrepreneurs and older elites are using disadvantaged communities of women as their salvation, as their passport to win project funds and gain media attention.
It is disheartening that the modern economic system treats conditions like cultural and physical challenges as liabilities, be it in developed or developing countries. It’s time now for all such stigma to end. If, we want to strengthen our economy, if our government wants to reduce poverty, if our leaders want the GDP to cope with the population growth, one inevitable tool will be the empowerment of all women and dismantling of structural patriarchy as an official policy. The time has arrived to move away from an economy that is based on top down directives, inequalities and cruel corporate control. The question is ;are we ready to take this intellectual risk?
The writer is a free thinker and alumna of world Economic Order/Friedrich Nauman Foundation