MURREE: Poverty reduction and women empowerment is the need of the hour in rural areas. In collaboration with rural support programme (RSP) and the community-based paralegals this task could be achieved.

This was stated by speakers at a conference held in Bhurban.

The ‘Annual strategy retreat 2019’ was organised by Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN).

The two-day event was aimed at strategic coordination, experience sharing, networking and showcasing of new initiatives by RSPs.

The discussion focused on ‘poverty graduation’ programmes in Pakistan, role of private sector and RSPs in rural enterprise development to reduce rural poverty and strengthening legal empowerment for women through community-based paralegals.

Speaking about the Ehsaas programme launched by the government, RSPN Chairman Shoaib Sultan Khan stressed the importance of outreach RSPs possessed in reaching every household for socio-economic empowerment that offered value addition to the national initiative.

Former country representative of International Fund for Agricultural Development Qaim Shah said: “Data to determine official poverty line in Pakistan has not been made available since the social and living standards measurement survey conducted in 2014-2015”.

Southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Programme running in 10 districts shows that economic empowerment of communities through income generating interventions also contributed to political empowerment as it helped them get released from bonded labour and so affecting voting choices.

It also brought a 41 per cent reduction in unemployment in those 10 districts and living and health conditions improved for 76pc of the programme beneficiaries through infrastructure support.

Representatives from implementing partners of European Union-funded programme in Sindh talked about the government of Sindh’s latest Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) that builds upon the gains made from economic and infrastructural investments made in rural communities across Sindh through European Union’s support.

With a budget of Rs72 billion the strategy targets employment opportunities, enterprise development and community infrastructural development to address rural poverty across all districts of Sindh.

The speakers said through poverty graduation programmes were replicable and scalable they should not be taken as a one-off intervention.

Yusuf Hussain, CEO Ignite Pakistan and National Technology Fund, discussed the need, potential and modus operandi to foster enterprise development and value chains to reduce rural poverty.

Representatives from Baltistan Farmers’ Cooperative Society spoke on the experience of the community agriculture value chain and gemstones business supported by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP).

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2019