As women march, govt unveils ambitious gender policy

Published March 9, 2022
Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari (L) speaks at the launch of National Gender Policy Framework in Islamabad on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: PID
Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari (L) speaks at the launch of National Gender Policy Framework in Islamabad on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: PID

KARACHI: As women across the country rallied under the banner of Aurat March and other female-first causes, the government on Tuesday launched the country’s first, and quite ambitious, Gender National Policy Framework.

An “integrated actionable programme”, in the words of Planning Minister Asad Umar, the framework aims to accelerate the progress on gender mainstreaming and improving the consistently low-ranking on gender indices.

“You cannot leave half the population behind to progress. If our women don’t progress, the country will not progress. The question is how do we do it? What are things that things that need to be done. This framework will help a translate a good thought an integrated actionable programme,” Mr Umar said at the launch event held in Islamabad.

The government also declared 2022 as the “year of female employees” with multiple initiatives being planned to make public sector workplaces conducive for women to work.

Hailing the contribution of Pakistani women in the workforce, he highlighted the role of female doctors. “The most important role in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic was played by our frontline health workers but who are these workers?”

“In Pakistan 76 per cent healthcare workers are women, [that is] three out of four doctors are women. 55pc women are doctors,” he said as he shared the details of an acknowledgement letter by Bill Gates on Pakistan’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Please stop using the word ‘honour’ in what is brutal murder of women. There is nothing honourable in it and we shouldn’t use that term. Its plain murder. Mindsets have to change,” Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said at the event.

She shared critical human rights initiatives that the current government had steered and informed about the multiple legislative instruments that had been introduced to achieve gender parity and end gender-based violence, discrimination, and oppression.

Ms Mazari hoped that the policy framework would remove hindrances & obstacles that keep women from achieving their full potential.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Shabnum Sarfraz, Member Planning Commission said the National Gender Policy framework stood as the culmination of nation-wide consultations steered by the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives.

The framework was developed in active coordination with the Ministry of Human Rights and all key institutions. Federal and provincial stakeholders, development partners, and subject experts, were all engaged including the youth, and deliberating on the strategic priorities for closing the gender gap in education, employment and making workplaces conducive for women across the country. The focus was also kept on promoting engagement of women in decision making and instituting gender transformative structures, she said.

The launch was attended by a panel of speakers including Special Assistant to Prime Minister and Federal Minister, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Ministry Dr Sania Nishtar.

She stressed upon the importance of gender equality in ending poverty and sustainable development. She elaborated on the gender mainstreaming within the Ehsaas Programme and the impact achieved to date. While appreciating the launch of the framework by the Planning Commission, she offered support and access to Ehsaas data bank as the policy is rolled out.

Salient features

The policy actions mentioned in the Gender National Policy Framework focus on six key areas including education, governance, economic empowerment, political participation, health and safety.

The national framework aims for ‘Equality and Quality in Education’ by creating enabling environments for girls and young women to learn and be equipped with employable and high-income skills.

Under ‘Governance’, the plan aims to establish gender-transformative governance structures, lead gender-equal institutional transformation, and ensure gender equality’s reflection among government priorities and action plans.

The plan foresees ‘Employment & Economic Empowerment’ of women by promoting equitable access to work opportunities with conducive workplaces, enabling enterprising environment and necessary business skills.

For ‘Agency, Political Participation and Meaningful Engagement’, the framework aims to create avenues for and advance female leadership, mentorship and engagement to meaningfully integrate their voices in program design and policy decisions.

For the ‘Health and Well-being’ of women, the framework has set the goal of integrating gender-sensitive health elements in cross-cutting services, including health.

Lastly but most importantly, the ‘Safety & Security’ policy action aims to end gender-based violence and mainstream gender protection across systems, policies, processes, and programmes.

Jamal Shahid also contributed to this report from Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2022

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