Various studies revealed that women play a very important role in any state and even they are central to the democratic and economic development and their empowerment, equal status and effective participation in social, political and economic spheres is vital to moving democracy, good governance and development forward. The Finance Ministry, Government of Pakistan officials also recorded that in Pakistan, women constitute about 49 percent of country’s population. Vision 2025 includes Gender Equality and Women Development as a significant element and recognizes as a main contributor to Pakistan’s economic future.
The Government of Pakistan is committed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) counting the Goal- 5 i.e. Gender Equality and Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls. It has recorded that the dream of building a healthier, better educated, further peaceful and additional prosperous society cannot be realised without recognising the inherent dignity of women and ensuring their active and robust role to build foundations of the society stronger. The Government of Pakistan has internalized SDGs as National Goals. The participation of women in the development process of the country has been recognized as a significant element.
The ministry reported that the indicators of women development are gradually enhancing but not yet sufficient to attain gender parity that remains elusive in school enrollment, labour market share and in decision making arena. The Government of Pakistan is well aware of this challenge and is making sincere efforts to offer an enabling environment and equal opportunities to women so that they may enjoy the advantages of economic growth, prosperity and social development.
In this regard, various steps have been taken for women development and empowerment. As a consequence, women’s employment is encouraged and the government officials have fixed 10 percent quota for women in public sector employment; Punjab grew this to 15 percent and in Sindh job quota for women in police has been grown from 2 to 5 percent.
Statistics also showed that Punjab has lifted the ban on recruitments and 25,000 tiers, and 70 percent of jobs in primary education have been earmarked for women. Punjab Fair Representation of Women Act 2014 ensures 33 percent representation of women on all boards of statutory bodies, public sector companies etc.
The government officials also reported in the economic survey that women participation in Prime Minister’s Youth Loan Schemes was encouraged by 50 percent. Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), a flagship social protection program of the government is offering social assistance to women. BISP also offers interest free financial assistance to the female beneficiaries under their Waseela-e-Haq (micro finance) program to start their own business. Vocational and technical training of one month to a year’s duration, to the female beneficiary or her nominee has been provided under the Waseela-e-Rozgar (technical & vocational training) program (target is 150,000 beneficiaries) with Rs 6,000 monthly stipend for each trainee. Waseela-e-Sehat (Life and health insurance) program subsidized health care for beneficiaries and life insurance to one million women; the premium is paid by the program. Waseela-e-Taleem (primary education) encourage the beneficiaries families to send their children ages 5-12 years to school through a co-responsibility cash transfer of Rs 200/- per child (limit to three per family ).
It is also recorded that the Government of Pakistan has also taken initiatives to ensure women’s rights as envisaged in the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Acknowledging ‘Honor Killings” as a critical problem, the current government has enacted effective legislation to address women’s issues with a view to safeguard their rights i.e. “Criminal Law (Amendment) Offences in the name or pretext of Honour Act, 2016” and “Criminal Law (Amendment) Offences Relating to Rape, Act 2016”. Various institutions have contributed in securing and promoting women’s rights and National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) is one of them.
The experts also recorded that the NCSW has prepared a broad roadmap defining goals, priorities and strategies for empowerment of the women with special focus on challenges of home based/informal sector workers and their inclusion in the labour force, affirmative actions for reservation of quotas in the government career opportunities/jobs counting minority communities and measures for legislation. The current government has taken many initiatives to attain women’s empowerment through awareness growing campaigns and allocation of budget.
The government statistics also showed that funds amounting to Rs 254.0 million have been assigned during PSDP 2017-18 to four new development schemes of Ministry of Human Rights counting Implementation of Action Plan for Human Rights in the country, Institutional strengthening of Ministry of Human Rights, Acquisition of land for construction of building for National Institute of Human Rights and Construction of working women hostel in Islamabad. In addition to that an amount of Rs 52.00 million has been assigned for two ongoing development schemes of Ministry of Human Rights i.e. Helpline for legal advice on violations of human rights with an allocation of Rs 25.0 million and establishment of National Institute of Human Rights with an allocation of Rs 27.00 million. Furthermore, in order to promote innovative ideas based on business plans leading to solution of social issues, the government has organized a Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at a cost of Rs178.43 million focusing on women entrepreneurship. The project is unique in nature for addressing social challenges by innovative business plans and women are particularly encouraged to increase as an entrepreneur.
In last I would like to mention here, women played key role in the creation of Pakistan and as in the present days they have the same potential too, they should be treated equally and fairly. It is fair to say that women are undoubtedly the foundation of the basic unit of society i.e. the family. Even in traditional roles, they demonstrate great innovation, skill, intelligence, hard work and commitment. If we are able to harness these attributes effectively, Pakistan’s growth will be more inclusive and equitable.