Gender: Shaping personality, lives and health of women in Pakistan

Narjis Rizvi, Kausar S Khan, Babar T. Shaikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Gender norms determine the status of Pakistani women that influence their life including health. In Pakistan, the relationship between gender norms and health of women is crucial yet complex demanding further analysis. This paper: determines the reasons for reiteration of gender roles; describes the societal processes and mechanisms that reproduce and reinforce them; and identifies their repercussions on women's personality, lives and health especially reproductive health.Methods: As part of a six-country study titled 'Women's Empowerment in Muslim Contexts', semi-structured group discussions (n = 30) were conducted with women (n = 250) who were selected through snowballing from different age, ethnic and socio-economic categories. Discussion guidelines were used to collect participant's perceptions about Pakistani women's: characteristics, powers, aspirations, needs and responsibilities; circumstances these women live in such as opportunities, constraints and risks; and influence of these circumstances on their personality, lifestyle and health.Results: The society studied has constructed a 'Model' for women that consider them 'Objects' without rights and autonomy. Women's subordination, a prerequisite to ensure compliance to the constructed model, is maintained through allocation of lesser resources, restrictions on mobility, seclusion norms and even violence in cases of resistance. The model determines women's traits and responsibilities, and establishes parameters for what is legitimate for women, and these have implications for their personality, lifestyle and health, including their reproductive behaviours.Conclusion: There is a strong link between women's autonomy, rights, and health. This demands a gender sensitive and a, right-based approach towards health. In addition to service delivery interventions, strategies are required to counter factors influencing health status and restricting access to and utilization of services. Improvement in women's health is bound to have positive influences on their children and wider family's health, education and livelihood; and in turn on a society's health and economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


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