On March 8, International Women’s Day, Pakistan announced the launch of a new national policy framework on gender equality. As the program for the launch event stated, this framework is important because of “…the dismal national standing against international gender development indices and a growing gender gap that is costing Pakistan 500 billion dollars a year and which can increase the country’s GDP by 30%. .”
The World Economic Forum publishes various global gender gap reports with country profiles every year. Pakistan performed poorly in all of them.
Pakistan’s ranking on the Gender Inequality Index, which measures inequalities in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity, was 133 out of 160 countries. Its ranking on the Global Gender Gap Index, which measures gender-related economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment, was 151 out of 153 countries. And, Pakistan was last in the rankings for advancing female leadership in government, business sector, STEM and entrepreneurship.
Pakistan also performs poorly in terms of ensuring the safety and security of women. A recent report released by the Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) states that 27,273 cases of violence against women were recorded in 2021 alone.
Considering these grim statistics, the National Gender Policy Framework (NGPF or Framework) is a necessary initiative to reduce and ultimately eliminate all forms of gender inequality and discrimination in Pakistan. Achieving this is essential and ensuring the full participation and empowerment of women in Pakistani society is crucial for the sustainable development of the country.
The NGPF focuses on six broad areas: governance; equality and quality in education; employment and economic empowerment; political participation and meaningful engagement; Safety and Security; and, health and wellness.
In the area of governance, the policy recommends the establishment of gender-transformative governance structures, institutional transformation for gender equality, strengthening the government’s capacity to integrate gender into its policies and programs and to ensure the institutionalization of gender equality principles in government priorities and action plans.
In education, the goal is to create environments for women and girls to learn and develop employable and high income-generating skills, with a particular focus on counseling and digital skills.
For economic empowerment, the framework aims to promote equitable access to work opportunities with conducive workplaces as well as fostering an entrepreneurial environment and necessary business skills.
For political participation and engagement, the policy aims to create pathways for and advance women’s leadership, providing mentorship and engagement to meaningfully integrate women’s voices into program design and policy decisions. , as well as by accelerating the registration of women on the electoral lists.
For the safety and security of women, the framework aims to provide gender-friendly work environments in which women can operate, to raise awareness of women’s protection discrimination and gender-equitable masculinities, to improve the access to justice for women and less privileged/marginalized gender groups, establishing gender-sensitive infrastructure and strengthening institutional compliance with laws to address harassment in the workplace and in cyberspace.
For health and well-being, the policy aims to integrate personal health and reproductive health into formal education streams, to protect and promote women’s mental health, to strive for gender equality in health directorate and to provide hygiene and sanitation facilities in educational institutions and markets.
The NGPF was presented by the Planning Commission of Pakistan. The Planning Commission spent March to December 2021 undertaking “an intensive nationwide multi-channel exercise…to establish a national gender policy framework identifying high-impact, evidence-based and targeted strategic priorities to accelerate progress in gender mainstreaming and systematically improve low rankings on gender indices.
The Commission and all those who have contributed to the creation of the framework are to be congratulated for their good work. However, it should not be forgotten that a framework is like the plan of a building.
Quality and excellence of design matter. But what matters much more is whether the building is built to specification.
The same goes for a strategic framework and a plan. What matters is how the plan is implemented as planned or in the worst case, if it sits on a shelf and gathers dust.
A well-known saying goes “Plan your work and work your plan”. Pakistan has done an excellent job in preparing its plan. It must now do the same in developing this plan.
If so, the framework will become a reality that will benefit both women and the entire Pakistani society. With women as equal citizens, Pakistan will not only increase its country’s GDP, but also the welfare of all citizens.