National policy for development and empowerment of women


April 28 -May 04, 2003



Islam bestows equal rights to both men and women. Islam is a peaceful and everlasting religion bestowed to our beloved/last Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (Peace be upon him). "Men and women are the two wheels of a vehicle" means total equal right and privileges to men and women. Before the advent of Islam, the old tribes of the Saudi Arabia used to kill their baby daughters or buried them alive lest they might demand equal shares from the property and assets of her father. Women folk were treated cruelly and harsh treatment was given to them. The old women were not enjoying the status and facilities, which actually they deserved. But the golden and everlasting religion of the globe, Islam, gave them their legitimate rights.

In Pakistan, which was created merely on the name and sake of Islam, the women folk enjoy equal rights and privileges in accordance with the provisions of Islam. The government from the core of its heart, realizes importance, equality and status of our women, in a welfare and God gifted state where we breathe. That is why in realizing their status the government for the first time, in the history of Pakistan introduced the National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women. The Government has actually taken many steps, which are landmark for development of the women of Pakistan. The policy introduced by the government for the betterment and welfare of our women folk, as Islam empowers them, contains a vision, goal aims and objectives. The policy lays down the guiding principles, gives them key policy measures specifically addressing the empowerment, dimensions in the social, economic and political fields.


These are the basic parameters and policy objectives of the Women Development Policy announced by the government:

a) To provide equality of opportunity and to create space for women to realize their full potential and caliber;

b) To remove inequalities and imbalances in all sectors of socio-economic development, to ensure women's equal access to all developmental benefits and social services;

c) To safeguard and ensure the protection of women's rights including economic, legal, social and political rights and right in vulnerable circumstances;

d) To provide women and girls access to quality health care services and all other pre-requisites to enjoy full health and reproductive and mental health;

e) To ensure the participation of women as equal partners in national development and decision making process in the society;

f) To ensure full participation of women in all political process and to enhance women's representation at all forums;

g) To substantially enhance women's literacy rates in rural and urban sectors of the society;

h) To reduce gender gap and to reorient existing curricula by making them gender sensitive.

And these are the guiding parameter principles adopted to promote the Policy: -

1) Non discrimination and gender equality at all levels;

2) Priority to the poorest of the poor especially in rural and isolated areas;



3) Constitutional guarantee and accession to international instruments on human rights;

4) Recognition of the value of women's worth and work and their contribution in all spheres of life;

5) Women being equal partners in development and agents of change in economic social and political process.


It ensures government agencies to adopt a gender sensitive approach for development in preparing the needs based on private as well as public sector.

Developing multi-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approaches for women's development with horizontal and vertical linkages at every level.

Mainstreaming gender issues through integration into all sectors of national development.

Eliminating all negative social practices.


According to the Census of 1998 the female literacy rates in the country are as low as 32.6 percent. Although female enrolment has increased at a higher rate at all levels yet women participation rate is much lower so that gender gaps continue to persist. We see that participation rates of girls in urban areas have increased due to a policy of co-education at the primary level, high drop out rates beyond primary persists as a result of lack of opportunities, mobility issues as well as traditions and cultural norms constraining the access of girls and move to high education.

To address these problems the following measures have been taken: Government has paid much attention in enrolment of primary school and secondary school for girls through provision of scholarships and stipends as well as subsidies for female education to the low-income households. Government has planned emphasis on equality of access and quality for girls to narrow down the existing gender gap. Government has also paid attention to the revision of curricula and textbooks at all levels for gender sensitization. It has also been done in provision of vocational and skills training particularly in the information technology. Government has also arranged compulsory primary education incentive schemes for girls including improved input through female teacher training.


Pakistan's maternal morality rate continues to be amongst the highest in the world. It is estimated that for every woman who dies, approximately 16 survive with chronic and long drawn out reproductive tract diseases. Advocacy and implementation of the life cycle approach, with improved health care and nutrition programmes for girls and women, promotion of anti and post-natal care, and enhanced provision of emergency obstetric care, curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS remain a national challenge to female health in Pakistan.

The following measures are being taken to redress these problems: -

Affirming the Government's Health Policy for all that underscores the emphasis for preventive and affordable primary health care provision for people in particular reproductive health services for women.

Strengthening of basic health facilities for emergency obstetric care services at Tehsil/district levels to reduce women morbidity and morality rates and addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug abuse through setting-up of counseling and rehabilitation clinics.



Ensuring provision of quality health cover including for the mental health and well being of women in line with the recommendations.

Ensuring reproductive health rights by involving men, women and adolescents, through non-coercive measures for family planning and promoting the small family norm in recognition of the principle of population stabilization through the adoption of a right based approach.


Women are unaware of their rights because of the prevalence of negative customary practices and attitudes, a general ignorance about rights and poor access to, and procedural problems in the justice system and a generally poor implementation of the law. Some other types of rights are denied through an absence of law. In our society affirmation provisions of the constitution are seldom implemented to establish real and substantial equality. Therefore, urgent action is needed to start addressing the multiple challenges in this area.

1) Eliminating negative customary practices by increasing knowledge of women's existing rights under the law and law itself to access judicial relief and redress;

2) Ensuring effective implementation and the enforcement of existing rights;

3) Removing discrimination through legal reforms;

4) Promoting women's access to justice by providing legal and assisting and counseling.


We observe that women are an essential part of our country's economy. Their share in economic benefits, opportunities and access to resources is not proportionate to their share in the population. Moreover increasing poverty as a result of structural adjustment programmes and globalization disproportionately impacts women. The following key policy measures are proposed to be undertaken: -


1) Affirming government policies for poverty alleviation of the women and endorses the provision of safety nets, food support schemes and provision of funds through Zakat;



2) Providing adequate relief and safety measures to alleviate the disproportionate impact of poverty on women by ensuring access of poor rural women to land, agricultural and livestock extension services and support mechanisms and facilities; and

3) Creating access to affordable housing schemes for women and promoting equality and the empowerment of women in all housing activities as exposed in the Government's Housing Policy 2001.


1) Providing women easy access to micro-credit especially through available windows such as Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Rural Support Programmes (RSPS), First Women Bank (FWB), Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and Khushali Bank; and

2) Ensuring that women in general and female headed houseless, women bread earners and women with disability in particular have priority in accessing credit on soft terms from FWB and the Khushali Banks and other financial institutions for setting up their business for buying properties and for house building. Government has ensured the women to access to the sources of livelihood, particularly in agricultural and livestock production. It has also been ensured to the women that government is committed to provide jobs at their localities so that they can work without fear of discrimination and harassment. It has been provided in the last to provide special courts for women in enterpremenial skills to assist and engage them to establish their own small-scale enterprises. Government has recognized counting and making visible women's real economic contribution and productivity in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy in national economic indicators. Government intends to ensure safety of women working in the rural economy and the informal sector as workers and taking measures to ensure healthy and safe conditions of work.

Government ensures strengthening women in political decision making position by providing training supervision/support and defining their authority and through engaging male colleagues in the development of gender equality in decision making. Government has taken initiative of inclusion of women through merit in all decision making bodies of the executive and judicial organizations of the state at federal, provincial and local/district levels and by taking measures to remove obstacles in women access to power and decision making in the family community and society on important global issues related to peace conflict resolution and presentation of a sustainable environment.

At federal level government has empowered the federal Ministry of Women Development for all such activities covered under the National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women in Pakistan with all financial and human resources. It is the first time in the history of the nation that need and importance of women development has been felt and then resulted in formulation of a comprehensive policy at national level.