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ISLAMABAD: Rural women in Pakistan contribute more to the development and social wellbeing of the country than is generally estimated, new report launched on Thursday says.

Titled the Status of Rural Women in Pakistan 2018, the report says the multidimensional work done by rural women is not acknowledged as the lines between work for economic gain and work as an extension of household chores are blurred and need to be recognised.

Canadian High Commissioner Perry Calderwood, Caretaker Minister for Human Rights Roshan Khursheed Bharocha, UN Women representative Jamshed M. Kazi and UN Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne also spoke on the occasion.

The report has been prepared by UN Women Pakistan with financial support from the Canadian government and the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW). Centre for Gender and Policy Studies’ Yasmin Zaidi presented the key findings of the report.

The report highlights opportunities and obstacles to rural women development and provides a set of recommendations for action by government, civil society and donors that can enhance their economic and social wellbeing.

Women comprise approximately half (101 million) of the total population (208 million) of Pakistan. The majority of them (65 million) live in rural areas, mainly engaged in farming, livestock management, and fisheries, mostly as unpaid (60pc) contributing family workers and earn less from their livestock or on low wages.

“Agriculture is the largest employer of Pakistani women workers,” the report says, highlighting the status, rights and wellbeing of rural women with respect to work. Women work in farming sector is mostly out of need often without choice and remains largely unrecognised, unpaid or underpaid.

Once the backbone of the economy, agriculture accounts for approximately 20pc of the GDP employing 42pc of the labour force including 28pc (7.3million) women.

The value of their work is Rs683 billion, or 57pc of all work done by women, and 2.6pc of GDP, the report says.

According to the report, college education is a catalyst for women to enter into formal, paid employment. Only 4pc rural women have college degrees, and 57pc of them are employed, primarily as teachers.

The report recommends skill development of rural women to cope with and embrace the drivers of change such as urbanization, climate change, environmental degradation and technological innovations.

CPEC

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will affect rural women and has the potential to change lives through increased options of connectivity, and requires inclusion of rural population and women in the planning, the report says.

It has the potential to improve rural women’s economic and social status, provided the planning at this stage is rigorous and evidence based with social and environment impact studies that assess the possibility and potential of change and the mitigation strategies for any adverse impacts.

However, for mountain people, especially women, there is no opportunity in the game-changer project, pointed out Nabat Ali, an activist from Gilgit-Baltistan.

Climate change

The report recommends that climate change policy must be gender sensitive to cater to the diverse geographic and topographic areas of Pakistan and the livelihoods of the communities therein.

They should be facilitated in growing new crops which are more resilient towards climate change, particularly in floods prone areas. Skill training could be given to women for creating new avenues of income generation.

Land reform

The report says for policy makers and development practitioners it is easier to provide women with education, health than give land rights because land is power in rural setting with profound impact on social, economic and political balance of power.

Pakistan has introduced three land reforms but these have been gender-blind and have done little to address the gender disparities in land ownership.

According to the report findings 89pc of rural women do not own a house, 96pc do not own land; only 2pc have sole ownership of land.

Education

The report recommends enforcement of Article 25A for provision of free and mandatory schooling for girls and boys till the age of 16 as well as the expansion of adult literacy outreach programmes for women; increase in the number of middle, secondary and higher secondary schools for girls in rural areas and provision of safe transport for students to go to their educational institutions.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2018