National Policy for Women
The first Bill of Rights for women was laid out (in the Quaranic Chapter on Women Al-Nisa and Other Quranic Chapters/verses), nearly fourteen hundred years ago. It may be said that no document is more gender sensitive than the Quran itself. In all references to roles and responsibilities, it addresses women and men, at all and specific times. In fact, women's roles and responsibilities as engendered in Islam, accord them a high status in the family and society.
The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in an address to students and at the height of the Pakistan Movement unequivocally stated the following. "It is a crime against humanity that our women are confined within the four walks of their homes like prisoners. They should stand side by side with men as their companions in all spheres of life." These words found life in the principles of equality as enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.
Even while religious and constitutional provisos exist, Pakistani women have had to face the challenge of being the neglected and discriminated half of society, and have done so resolutely. On the positive side, it can be stated, that a small segment of women have succeeded in carving a niche for themselves, and have made a mark on national development.
However, this progress is generally considered as one step forward and two backwards. The overall situation analysis for women's development shows, that this has generally been constrained by a number of factors, including prevalent negative attitudes, lack of commitment and interest in investing in and building the capacity of the overall human resources of the country, and women in particular. And even while opportunities exist, one a few women are able to access these.
In general, the status of the large majority of women, the invisible half of society, remains low on the global human development rankings, poor literacy rates, poor health ratios, with little or no participation in the decision-making process. Their work in the productive sectors, remains un-recognised, with 'Pakistan's GEM (gender empowerment measure) ranking being second to last'.
Successive governments have adopted measures to improve the status of women, however, these have been adhoc, isolated and limited. In the absence of a comprehensive WID/GAD policy, most measures have impacted negatively, as government policies remained inconsistent.
However, since 1995, there has been a paradigm shift towards women's gender and development issues. This has to a large extent been due to the global focus on women's issues, with an impetus, being provided with the convening of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing '95, in which Pakistan participated.
Pakistan accession in 1996, to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Has created further focus. The National Plan of Action (guideline document listing strategic objectives/actions) in 12 areas of concern, launched at the highest level in 1998, has also been instrumental in accelerating focus on women's issues.
Other developments that have impacted positively include: Publication of the reports of earlier Commissions set up, including the Commission of Inquiry '97, as has the setting up of the present Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in 2000.
Many documents and reports on women, (Pakistan's National Report presented at the Fourth World Conference on Women'95, the National Plan of Action, 96-98; the WID Working Group Report for the Ninth Five Year Plan'97. Pakistan NGO Reviews, February 2000); have clearly emphasized and exhorted the need for a policy for women. One which provides a framework for undertaking affirmative action and other measures.
The Government of Pakistan accepting its national and international commitments and cognisant of the need to maximise the capacity of nearly half its population, that is women, is therefore building upon this need by enunciating a clear WID/GAD policy.
Such a policy would facilitate all Pakistani women, irrespective of caste, creed, religion etc., in utilising their full potential in all spheres of life (home and the work place), and to participate in decision-making processes as well as to take decisions for and about themselves, in an enabling environment.
With this in views, the policy for women will therefore be comprehensive and encompass the 12 areas of concern that have been globally recognised as "areas of particular urgency that stand our as priorities for action*. It will be guided and abide by the principles of gender equality and equity at all times.
It will also cover all Socio/economic and other sectors which impact women and men. In particular, this policy will address affirmative actions needed in all 12 areas of concern and in the sectors outlined in the five year plans, with special emphasis on budgetary allocations.
The policy will overall advocate and highlight Islamic/religious rights/obligations of society, towards women and girls in all spheres of their life.
The Beijing Platform for Action
Given the fact that (policies for Health, Education, Population and other sectors are already in place, the National WID/GAD policy will facilitate these by reaffirming measures in place and by continued review and evaluation of such measures. It will address gender inequities in the all areas of National development including Education and Health, through existing Govt. mechanisms and policies. It will support all measures that take into account the benefits of educating girls and women, on the principles that educating girls and women means educating a whole family.
Recognising that poverty affects women and children more adversely, the policy will advocate measures for adequate provision of social safely nets. It is intended that policy will held in bringing about a focus on the needs of the rural poor, especially rural agricultural women.
The policy would place a strong emphasis on women's employment issues, skill development, vocational training, self employment, entrepreneurship, credit, marketing, labour laws, trade unionism and other related concerns.
The policy would advocate that female house holds heads/bread earners, women with disability in particular, women in general have priority accessing credit facility on soft terms from FWB and the Khushali Banks and other financial institutions, for setting up of business or for buying properties, especially for house building.
The policy would advocate special/beneficial measures for all disadvantaged women's groups particularly, aged/elderly women, women and girls with disability, women in detention, abused women.
On the issue of violence against women, the policy would advocate stringent measures by the Govt. Through concerned agencies in order to reduce the prevalence of violence against women in all its forms, whether domestic or at the work place.
The WID/GAD policy would place emphasis on and ensure:
A positive portrayal of women in all media Representation of women at all decision making levels and in legislative bodies.
Existence of strong and effective mechanisms for WID/GAD, within the Govt. machinery. The role of the Ministry of Women's Development at Federal level and the role of the women development department at provincial level be reviewed and restructured, to enable them to act as catalysts rather than Project implementers.
Rights of women and girls are protected through positive legislation and that all discriminatory laws are reviewed and repealed.
In addition, the National WID/Gad policy would support measure for protecting women'' traditional knowledge related to resource use and management of the environment.
Achievement of gender equality and equality in the 21st century as well as the social, political and economic empowerment of Pakistani women at all levels of society. This to be made possible through an enlightened and progressive policy on women and through its committed implementation by the federal, provincial and all tiers of local government, with support of all segments of civil society and NGOs.
The overall aim of the policy for women would therefore be to
Tap the immense human resource potential and capacity of half of Pakistan's population, and to make them equal and visible partners in the country's development by undertaking new and diverse initiatives.
Empower the women of Pakistan by providing them equality of opportunity in an enabling environment.
Sensitize the population at large, by creating and increasing awareness on women's rights, roles and responsibilities in the 21st century.
Ensure that women's concerns and perspectives are reflected at all stages of development and subsequently, institutionalized.
Mainstream women into the developmental process.
Ensure integration of a gender perspective (including gender budgeting/gender impact analysis/gender auditing) in all national development programmes and projects.
Develop multi-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approaches for women's development with horizontal and vertical linkages at every level.
Sensitize government agencies in adopting a gender sensitive approach to development, by preparing need based and implementable programmes and projects.
Ensure the social, political and economic empowerment of women, by including them indecision-making processes and through representation in local government and in provincial/national assemblies.
Address both the practical as well as strategic needs of women through affirmative action.
A conductive and enabling environment is one in which women do not face discrimination at any level - whether at home or at work. Efforts will therefore be aimed at:
Ensuring that prevalent negative attitudes, customary practices and harmful tradition; that constrain women are changed, through committed efforts at every level.
Ensuring that all discriminatory laws are reviewed and subsequently repealed.
Ensuring that all forms of violence against women is eliminated.
This policy will be guided by the following:
Principles of equality as per Islamic/Quranic injunctions and as enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan in particular. Articles 25 and 34.
The strategic objectives and actions listed in the National Plan of Action (officially adopted as a guideline document at the highest levels in 1998 to date).
Reports/recommendations of all four Commissions on Women and of the National Commission on the Status of women set up in September 2000.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women-Pakistan acceded to CEDAW in March 1996 and is bound by the Articles of this Convention.
Also by a recognition of
Women's rights as human rights.
Women's work and worth
Efforts made by Pakistani women at all levels, to impact national policies and institutions and to create a niche for themselves.
The fact that women and men as equal partners, together can create a better society and family and can accelerate the pace of development for a greater Pakistan.
The role of the Ministry of Women's Development (MoWD) will be key for implementing the WID/GAD policy. It will act as the focal ministry and facilitate coordination between other ministries at national level and line departments at provincial level as well as between these and civil society and NGOs.
MoWD will regularly brief Cabinet on progress of implementation
MoWD to act as a catalyst for promoting Gender and Development
MoWD to facilitate gender sensitisation and training programmes for all other Ministries, WDDs at provincial level to do the same.
The National Core Group (NCG-comprising government officials from various line Ministries. NGOs, individuals and civil society representatives) set up in 1997/8 will be re-activated to act as the monitoring body. It will undertake the following:
Oversee policy implementation at national level, through setting up of area (12 areas) specific committees with a focal point from relevant ministry. Similar committees to be set up at provincial and local government levels.
Hold bi-annual meetings to review progress of implementation.
Regularly brief the National Commission on the Status of Women on Progress of implementation and vice versa.
Review the WID/GAD policy from time to time, suggest amendments to Government, as needed.