HistoryPakistan Studies

Women Empowerment and Rural Electrification – Reforms of Benazir Bhutto

This article discusses two important reforms of Benazir Bhutto, the women empowerment and rural electrification’ during her rule in the 1990s.

Women empowerment


The term ’empowerment’ refers to increased access to opportunities, resources, and abilities to make independent decisions/choices in individual and collective life.

Benazir Bhutto took steps for women empowerment i.e.

  • It was her government that established the First Women Bank in Pakistan.
  • The first women’s police station was also introduced in her tenure in 1993.
  • She also has the credit to appoint the First woman judge of a high court. Justice Majida Rizvi was appointed as the first woman judge of the high court in her tenure. This was followed by the appointment of a woman as Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court.
  • Benazir Bhutto initiated a lady health workers program in 1993 with an aim of promoting awareness about female health, primary care, and Family Planning. Under this program, the government established Health Workers Centers in both rural and urban areas which are working to date.
  • Benazir Bhutto also set up the ministry of minorities and the ministry for women. The ministry since then has been making efforts to address issues of minorities and women in the country.
Following was the impact of reforms that Benazir Bhutto introduced during her tenure in the 1990s.

Increase in the standard of women

The reforms Improved the status of women as they now could get an education and play their role in different departments of national life.

Reporting of violence on women

As part of a male-dominated society, Pakistani women always have faced it difficult to seek justice from the courts. The establishment of women’s police stations during the tenure of Benazir Bhutto was instrumental in breaking this taboo to a great extent. It encouraged women to report cases of violence on women i.e. acid attacks, domestic violence, the workplace harassment thus empowering them to speak and seek justice.

Empowerment of women

The Lady Health Workers Program of Benazir Bhutto has also contributed greatly to the empowerment of women in Pakistan. This program empowered the lady health workers themselves and the community they serve.

The program;

  • created job opportunities for women particularly in such regions where conservative mindset still prevailed and female social mobility was still discouraged. Thus this program acted as a source of income for LHWs, on one hand, on the other hand, it encouraged people to accept the movement of women outside the home for work.
  • included workshops, training, etc. to develop the capacity of women. Consequently, the LHWs enhanced their skills and felt more confident in what they were doing. They now felt proud of the services they rendered to fellow females regarding family planning, reproductive health, etc. This had a positive impact on the physical and psychological health of the overall community.

Rural Electrification


The government of Benazir Bhutto took the following measures to supply electricity to villages throughout Pakistan.

  • In the first place, the regime of Benazir Bhutto launched Pakistan’s first and largest program in 1994. The aim of this initiative was to generate and conserve energy.


  • Secondly, the PPP regime built a partnership with the Independent Power producers (IPPs) to produce 13, 000 MW of electricity in Pakistan.


  • The energy policy of Benazir Bhutto was helpful in the utilization of the diverse energy resources of Pakistan.
  • According to estimates, the government was able to produce  60% of power from hydel and the rest from thermal and nuclear. Once the government was able to generate more power, it undertook a program to provide electricity to villages all over the country.

Electricity provision has played an important role in the empowerment of women in Pakistan. It brought a drastic improvement in the economic conditions of the village population.

Mechanization of farming

With the provision of electricity, farmers started to use machinery and technology in farming. They now had the reach to electricity-driven modern techniques of food preservation, farming, and irrigation.

Reduced use of fossil fuels

When there was no electricity, People used fossil fuel lamps e.g. lanterns, etc. for lighting. These lamps, on one hand, were hazardous for health and on the other hand, cost huge expenses for poor people. Thus, with the electrification of villages, the poor people got rid of this problem.

Use of kitchen Technology

Electricity has multiple uses in domestic chores. To give an example, the provision of electricity has made the life of females in villages very easy. Now they have access to electric gadgets like washing machines, woven devices, oven machine,s, and whatnot.

Employment opportunities

Apart from the above contribution, rural electrification created job opportunities for women to engage in activities such as sewing powered by electricity.

Facility for students

Students who study only during day time now were able to study at night, early in the morning.


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