The government officials revealed that Pakistan had a Gender Inequality Index (GII) ranking of 133 in the 2017. It is not an encouraging sign that female participating in the labour market is also declining with the passage of time, viz, from 15.8 percent in FY2015 to 14.5 percent in 2017-18. Furthermore, the Labour Force Survey 2017-18, showed that women are concentrated in agriculture with a share of 67 percent, while in manufacturing they have a share of 16 percent and in community and personal services they have a share of 14.6 percent. In the case of occupational groups, women are mostly working as skilled agricultural workers 55 percent, elementary/unskilled workers 18 percent, and craft and related trade workers 14 percent.
The economists registered that women empowerment and gender equality is significant on the agenda of the government. The longterm national planning framework commits to pursuing women empowerment as a main priority areaacross all sectors of planning and development. It focuses on offering an enabling environment to every woman to develop their full potential to equally reap the advantages of economic and social development in Pakistan.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also recognizes the significance of empowering women and Goal-5 is dedicated to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The targetsfor this goal aspire to end all forms of discrimination, eliminate violence against women and girls inall its manifestations like; ensure health and reproductive rights, ensure political, social andeconomic participation of women. The other targets are of particular significance for enabling women’s economic empowerment. Sources recorded that the present government is completely cognizant of its constitutional responsibilities for protecting the rights of thewomen. Many measures have been taken for gender and women development in the country. The measures include allocation of resources in Public Sector Development Program for promotion and protection of women through Human Rights and development initiatives. However, the impact of socio-cultural attitudes on women’s lives sometimes undermines their progress and status in society.
The government officials also recorded that the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection of Women against harassment at workplace has been organized and is functional at federal and provincial level. The Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), a continued social protection program of the governmentis offering social assistance to women. Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal has organized women empowerment centers/schools in Pakistan including Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas. These schools are offering free training to widows, orphans and poor girls in different skills. Current strength of these schools is 155 (Punjab-64, Sindh-30, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/erstwhile FATA-32, Balochistan-18 & ICT/AJK/ N. Areas-11). Local skills are also being imparted in these schools. Through Individual Financial Assistance (IFA) the poor, widows, destitute women, orphans and disabled persons are being supported by general assistance, education, medical treatment and rehabilitation.
The Government of Pakistan’s officials also recorded that the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has prepared a comprehensive roadmap defining goals, priorities and policies for empowerment of women with special focus on issues of home based/informal sector workers and their inclusion in the labour force, affirmative actions for reservations of quotas in the government jobs counting minority communities and initiatives for legislation. Violence against women is an important thematic area for NCSW. The Senate on 29th April, 2019 has passed the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2018 which proposes that the legal minimum age of marriage in Pakistan be set at 18. The women entrepreneurship initiatives have been promoted through Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform and by ensuring their participation through consciousness seminars/workshops, pitch events, seed money grants and networking sessions under the project “Centre for Social Entrepreneurship” at a cost of Rs.178.43 million and Rs. 50.0 million has been assigned for FY 2018-19. The entrepreneurship initiatives included promotion of innovative business plans based on social business plans leading to solution of social problems faced through the male and females in the society. The project is unique in addressing social challenges by innovative business plans and women are equally offered opportunities to increase as a startup and entrepreneur and play their role as an active entrepreneur contributor in the society to address the social challenges. The Centre has financed 9 social start-ups by granting seed money grant of Rs. 500,000/- each out of which 33 percent were led by women and generated career opportunities for 179 people during last two quarters of 2018-19. The federal and provincial governments, counting NGOs and civil society organizations are implementing the plans, programs and projects for promoting gender equality and women empowerment by interventions comprised of consciousness growing campaigns and allocation of resources under Annual Development Programs. The women development departments have envisaged initiatives for establishment of working women hostels, daycare centers for children of working mothers, women crises centers, principles & awareness on work place harassment and shelter homes for homeless people in the ICT and provinces.