Today the present government is committed and believes in creating, an enabling environment for people in general to enjoy long, healthy and creative life and for women in particular. Economic development, if it is to be meaningful and sustainable, must involve and accrue to all citizens. At the same time economic growth alone cannot guarantee social harmony, especially in an under developed societies. National development must be balanced by a strong and real emphasis on equitable distribution of development benefits especially for the lower segments of the population. This philosophy of development i.e., growth with equity is to be embodied in all national development policies. Poverty alleviation and social development has to be the central part of the overall national development.
In the developing world, the menace of poverty is deep routed, especially in the rural areas while Pakistan is no exception to it. Therefore the United Nations identified the rural women as a catalyst for change if the objective of eradicating poverty is to be attained. Invisible and industrious, neglected and under nourished, She is the pivot on which the rural household functions. She is the major contributor to the agricultural labour force producing more than 50% of the developing world’s food. She is the one who tend sows, reaps, gather crops, cares for animals, plants herbs, and looks after the families but hardly ever recognized in the statistics of production while easily made a target of cultural malpractices which not only hurts her dignity but even take her life. It is very important to bring the women into the lime light so that policy makers could design their development interventions in a way that could politically and financially empower her enough to make a difference in the living conditions of herself and her family and her immediate surroundings. At the same time giving her the personal security and dignity that is her fundamental right.
Today’s globalized world offers many opportunities and challenges while demonstrating the need for having, a level playing field for men and women; this can only be established if we shun prejudices and isolationism. We need to explore innovative ways to overcome the formidable obstacle to the empowerment of women and gender equality. There is a need to focus and devise strategies to enhance women’s role in decision-making and power sharing in all tiers of the government. Considering the plight of women, the government of Pakistan has introduced a special hardcore poverty alleviation program focusing on the very poor families through the women of the family. Our commitment is reflected in the newly created “ Benazir Income Support Program” through which cash assistance is provided to poor households. This is the direct disbursement of assistance to the poor women at her door step. It will certainly enhance her nutrient intake putting her in a better position to take part in the development of the country. The Primary objective of BISP is social protection to the poor while secondary objectives are: To register the women with NADRA.Ø Empowerment of women.Ø To bring the women in main stream. I believe that enhancing the participation of women in mainstream development would mean providing greater opportunities and accessibility for them to make decisions, to manage their own resources and to be self reliant.
In Pakistan, we have taken deliberate and conscious steps for the promotion and protection of women’s rights and their advancement. On the political front we have thirty three percent reserved seats for women in all local bodies (more than 36000 women councilors). At the national level seventeen percent seats have been reserved for women in the constituent assembly. I believe that investing in human resource development especially the women folk is critical for the women empowerment and national development. Providing economic opportunities especially for rural women is one of the priorities of our poverty alleviation programs. The khushhali Bank and women Bank is providing micro-credit to the poor, particularly to the women. Micro-credit, as experienced by us, can be instrumental in women empowerment. Only such empowerment can pave the way for faster economic and social development. The United Nations fact sheet on the “Feminization of poverty” highlights that “Women empowerment is a critical factor in freeing the millions of people who are caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. By providing women with access to economic and educational opportunities, as well as the autonomy needed, will lead to overcome an obstacle to poverty eradication and women empowerment. The United Nations has under scored that “The provision of credit, especially micro-credit, has become a very popular and successful strategy for poverty eradication”. Therefore we believe that sharing our best practices in extending micro-credit to the women, in particular are essential. This will help us to devise strategies to increase options for women to advance their status in society through greater access to financial resources.
We are working on four strategic methods for women empowerment, to bring the women in the main stream and address the cultural barriers in the full exercise of women’s citizenship:
- Awareness-raising among the citizens.Ø
- Capacity-building of women.Ø
- Research and documentation on the achievements of women.Ø
- Advocacy for policy reform in political parties, electoral systems and campaign finance,Ø
A nation-wide mass media campaign, which will highlight the importance of women’s representation and participation in decision-making; the transformation changes that women bring while women’s political participation as a human right.
Training of the women to encompass the whole range of women’s citizenship as voters, candidates and elected officials. It will include voters’ rights awareness; young women’s leadership training; how to run and win; and skills-building for women who got elected in the local councils, and the provincial and national assemblies. These skills include developing a policy agenda; articulation and negotiation; influencing and shaping policy decisions, and allocation of resources.
Research and Documentation:
To show that women make a difference, while instituting rules, practices, and norms as well as policy decisions should be documented.
Policy Analysis and Advocacy:
Three important areas for policy advocacy to enhance women’s political participation are democratization of political parties; quotas as temporary special measures to achieve gender balance; and campaign finance reform.In conclusion, women’s political participation is not only about increasing their numbers but about effectiveness and impact. Women should be able to participate in open, transparent, accountable decision-making processes of policy-making institutions and mechanisms, not as beneficiaries/objects of development programs but as agents/subjects of developmental change. Their effectiveness is indicated by the extent to which they are able to influence institutional rules, norms and practices and consequently shape the policy agenda and decisions about the use and allocation of resources. Their impact on the other hand will be seen in the entitlements, capabilities and rights they are able to secure for women to redress gender disparities and change their lives, especially the poor women’s lives. Recognizing the centrality of economic empowerment of women I advocate that the women should have the ownership and control of assets, equal access to credit, employment, education, information and participation in decision making bodies at all level. Today the government of Pakistan is determined to address this issue of concern of women empowerment through effective implementation of programmers’ for poverty alleviation.