Pakistan launches Women’s Economic Participation & Empowerment Report 2016

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“Women’s economic work, paid and unpaid, needs to be recognized, acknowledged and tracked at District and provincial levels in Pakistan” urged Dr. Yasmin Zaidi, Lead Researcher/Author of the Report

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ISLAMABAD – “Women’s economic work, paid and unpaid, needs to be recognized, acknowledged and tracked at District and provincial levels in Pakistan so that Pakistan can report on SDG 5” stressed Dr. Yasmin Zaidi, Lead Researcher/Author of the newly launched status report 2016 on women’s economic participation and empowerment in Pakistan.

Dr. Yasmin Zaidi, Director of Center of Gender and Policy Studies (CGaPs), also said that robust data on employment and earnings will allow provinces to plan where to allocate resources so all districts can prosper and generate decent employment, and manage the flow of economic migration within the country.

Pakistan’s ‘Women Economic Participation and Empowerment – Status Report 2016’ looks at social and economic vulnerabilities that keep the Pakistani woman underpaid and overworked, even when she has overcome structural and social barriers to seek employment. The Report highlights specific aspects of women’s economic empowerment (such as employment, type of employment and wages, vulnerable work and the working poor), and recommends a concerted effort to improve women’s access, opportunities and capabilities in order for them to participate as full economic actors in development and growth of a dynamic Pakistan that the Vision 2025 seeks.

Ms. Sana Mahmud, panelist and Captain, National Women’s Basketball Team spoke of the gender pay gap saying: “The wage gap for men and women remains high, even within the realm of sport. Female athletes – doing exactly what the men are doing – are many at times paid less than their male counterparts. This in turn creates an even more difficult situation for women who are already struggling to participate fully and equally in sports, and are further disillusioned by the lack of incentives provided, including monetary remuneration.”

Mr. Mohsin Afzal, panelist and Founder and CEO of Founder, Studios addressed Pakistan’s untapped women workers saying: “While there is no denying that gender equity is strong moral and humanitarian issue, I feel a lot of people don’t understand that it has economic implications as well. Denying equal opportunities and participation to almost half of our population [the women] simply means we’re wasting a lot of untapped potential.”

The Status Report 2016, produced with support from the Governments of Norway and Denmark, by UN Women in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) emphasizes the complex and multifaceted concept of women’s economic empowerment.

Economic participation and empowerment of women is recognized globally as essential for the progress of a nation and growth of its economy. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 (where Pakistan is a Member State) also recognizes the importance of empowering women – Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Whilst Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan ‘guarantees citizens the right to pursue economic opportunities irrespective of sex, caste or creed and related labour laws’, and the Government of Pakistan’s Vision 2025 also recognizes expanding women’s participation and access to opportunities, still Pakistan ranks 143 out of 145 countries in economic participation and opportunities and 135 in educational attainment the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015.

Ms. Helle Nielsen, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Denmark, Islamabad in her remarks said: “Investing in girls and women is not only the right thing to do but also a smart thing to do, as research shows that investing in girls and women is the most effective investment in development, reaching far beyond the individual women.” Ms. Nielsen gave the example about how women spend 90% of their salary on their children and the health, education and well-being of their family, while men only spend 30 to 40%.

“Investing in women’s economical participation is a direct way to gender equality, poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth, but in order for the world to experience progress, we need to give girls and women the equal opportunities to which they are entitled. This will not only benefit girls and women but societies at large”, said Ms. Nielsen.

She also shared that Denmark was proud to be hosting the world’s largest global conference on women and girls’ rights, ‘Women Deliver’, which is currently taking place in Copenhagen.

Mr. Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative, UN Women Pakistan, said: “This comprehensive report captures different facets of women’s economic empowerment from the relations between malnutrition and lesser opportunities in the workforce to the extra burden of humanitarian crisis on women. The report delineates a meticulous overview of the working women population of Pakistan. It is imperative to position gender responsive infrastructure in places such as daycare centers, anti-sexual harassment mechanisms, safe and affordable transport and accommodation options to encourage economically inactive women to join the formal workforce as well as ensure retention for the existing women workforce. Providing equal opportunities for better quality education is also critical for women and girls to improve their employment options.”

Speaking during the panel discussion, Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, panelist and former Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women, appreciating the study said “This publication deserves special appreciation for developing the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Index for the first time in Pakistan. The Index will help in ranking the WEE status by districts and provide a mechanism to measure progress and pinpoint areas that require more concerted attention.”

The Chief Guest and Chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Fauzia Viqar congratulated NCSW and UN Women for producing a very informative report and stressed the importance of data collection for informed policies, actions and to measure progress. “This data would surely help us in correct decision making and we hope that the analysis would inform development schemes of the Government of Pakistan” she said.

Key Recommendations:

  • The government should implement the 10% quota for women in government service without further delay, and include an increase in number of women in the police force and law enforcement and female judges at all levels.
  • Legislation to recognize homebased workers and bring them within the ambit of labour laws and social security.
  • Implement the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981 to enforce the 2% quota of employment for persons with disabilities in the public and private sector.
  • Facilitate women’s ownership of land and physical assets, again through a mix of tax credits and rewards.
  • Develop technical training institutions that can equip individuals with skills aligned with market demands and technology.
  • Improve the type and value of microfinance available to women and introduce innovative projects to engage women.
  • Corporate social responsibility conditions, enforced through legislation and relevant mechanisms, should ensure above minimum wage incomes, day care centers for women employees, separate toilets and spaces for women employees, and a safe, free of harassment.

Enhanced economic opportunities: With the right skills and opportunities women can help businesses and markets grow. Focus on education and training that provides women with market demand-driven skills and knowledge and on business development (microenterprises and SMEs) so they can take advantage of economic opportunities. Essential to include women with disabilities; excluding persons with disabilities incurs an economic loss of approximately USD $ 12 to 15 billion per annum for
Pakistan, equivalent to approximately 5% of GDP.

Strengthen women’s agency: Focus on building the social capital, leadership, decision-making status of women is required. Women’s 33% representation in decision making bodies such as boards and committees should be introduced in all public and private sector entities. Initiatives that address social norms that hinder women’s participation in economic, social and political spheres should be prioritized as an integral part of the first two components.

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