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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiative Asad Umar reiterated the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s commitment to closing the gender gap and providing equal opportunities to women in all spheres of life.

The minister expressed these views, while launching a ‘National Gender Policy Framework for Pakistan’ at Planning Commission here on Tuesday.

He said in his inaugural speech said that the government is committed to empowering the women of our country. He said that as Pakistan’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic garnered international praise, we fully recognise and acknowledge that our health response was delivered by a health workforce, which comprises 76 percent females.

In a welcome note, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan informed that 2022 has been declared as “year of female employees” and multiple initiatives are being planned to make public sector workplaces conducive for women to work in.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr Shabnum Sarfraz, member Planning Commission said that the National Gender Policy framework stands as the culmination of nation-wide consultations steered by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.

She said that the framework was developed in active coordination with the Ministry of Human Rights and all key institutions, while engaging federal and provincial stakeholders, development partners, sectoral and subject experts, meaningfully engaging the youth, and deliberating on the strategic priorities for closing the gender gap in education, employment and making workplaces conducive for women across the country. She said that the focus was also on promoting engagement of women in decision making and instituting gender transformative structures to help ensure we make all happen what is being committed.

Federal Minister of Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari shared the critical human rights initiatives that the current government has taken and informed about the multiple legislative instruments that have been introduced to achieve gender parity and end gender-based violence, discrimination, and oppression.

The launch was attended by a powerful panel of key note speakers.

Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister and Federal Minister, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Ministry, government of Pakistan in her keynote address stressed upon the importance of gender equality in ending poverty and sustainable development. She elaborated on the gender mainstreaming within the Ehsaas Program and the impact achieved to date. While appreciating the launch of the framework by the Planning Commission, she offered all support and access to EHSAAS data bank as the policy is rolled out.

The highlight of the day was the talk by Lt General Nigar Johar Khan, Colonel Commandant of Army Medical Corps and Surgeon General Pakistan Army who spoke on breaking barriers and how women can pursue leadership journey. She listed the five key ingredients that women leaders must have as faith, integrity, resilience, discipline, and humility.

Representatives from all provincial planning and development departments shared their commitments to advancing the women and girl development agenda on behalf of their respective governments.

Federal Secretary Ministry of Planning Aziz Uqaili said that in order to support the provinces with specific gender focused programs and reflecting their commitments in this direction, the federal government will be providing support.

The final session was chaired by Sania Alam, representative of the national youth council who placed her deep appreciation on the process adopted for developing the gender framework. She informed that the council was closely engaged and the framework brings a lot of hope to the young girls with aspirations to advance in their lives and contribute to economic prosperity.

The event hosted civil servants, federal gender focal persons at the ministries, members of the civil society, NGOs and development partners.

The country representatives of UN Agencies, foreign diplomats placed their pledges in support of the national gender priority agenda and for women to get equal opportunities to realize their full potential. These included Bakhtiar Khadirove, Country Representative UNFPA, Aliona Niculita, Deputy Resident Representative UNDP, Aida Girma- Melaku, Country Representative UNICEF and senior officials from UN WFP, ILO, UNESCO, IOM, UNOPS, UN Women, UNIDO, FCDO, German Embassy, Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The National Gender Policy Framework Launch is a historic moment in Pakistan’s journey towards creating a gender equal society that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and free of all biases which also resonates with Agenda 2030 that states “The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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