THE PAKISTAN DEVELOPMENT REVIEW
Women’s Autonomy in the Context of Rural Pakistan
The paper explores the elements that constitute women’s autonomy in rural Pakistan. Hitherto most research on women’s status in Pakistan has either been restricted to proxy measures of women’s status generally or to the urban areas. Community or region, each of which has distinctive features, have an overriding influence on this subject. Northern Punjabi women have lower economic autonomy but greater mobility and decision-making authority than women in Southern Punjab. Gender systems at the village level are also important predictors of women’s autonomy. Economic class has a weak and ambivalent influence on women’s autonomy in rural Punjab. Class influences both education and employment of women, these remains the routes to empowerment in rural settings. While most women in rural areas contribute economically, the majority works on the household farm or within the household economic unit. These women do not derive any additional autonomy as a result of this contribution. Paid employment, though offset by other restrictions on poor women, offers greater potential for women’s autonomy. Education, on the other hand, has a lesser influence on female autonomy in the rural Punjabi context.