female labor in PakistanThe Karachi branch of Caritas Pakistan works to provide technical assistance and job training to the women of small Pakistani farms in several villages as part of its Acre for Women campaign. The campaign’s goal is to leverage the untapped potential of female labor in Pakistan. Providing training and opportunities to women will expand food security among the country’s vast population of subsistence farmers by encouraging self-sufficient practices with the resources on hand, ranging from basic water efficiency to crop rotation.

A Nascent Workforce

Amir Robin, an Acre for Women regional coordinator, explained both the long- and short-term benefits of training the women of several independent farms that range as small as a single acre. In an interview with UCA News, he states that aside from increasing food security, such training helps household farms minimize the cost of adapting to changing environmental conditions.

Female participation in the Pakistani labor force runs as low as 25%, according to World Bank estimates. The government aims to increase the amount to 45% by 2025. Accelerating Pakistan’s economic growth by boosting female labor involves eliminating the reasons for female labor’s systemic underuse.

Educational Disparities

First, women face limited access to formal education or vocational training. Girls make up about 53% of children that do not attend school in Pakistan, therefore, girls benefit the most from development programs. Such programs include those sponsored by the Engro Foundation, the “social investment arm” of Engro Corporation, a conglomerate company headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan. By sponsoring new government schools and refurbishing old ones with computer labs, Engro aims to increase the literacy rate among girls.

In light of COVID-19’s effect on unemployment rates, expanding educational opportunities remains the primary short-term focus of increasing female participation in the labor force. Engro’s programs are demonstrating fast results. More than 19,000 self-employed women are improving their livelihoods through vocational training in “animal husbandry practices, entrepreneurship in milk collection and livestock extension services in the dairy value chain.” Additionally, a surge of technologically literate women helps overcome difficulties in the job market due to greater access to advanced occupations.

Farm Income Depends on Women

Pakistan’s largest source of potential growth lies in its agricultural sector. Around 64% of Pakistanis live in rural areas and mostly work in agriculture. A large portion of the national economy depends on the output of family farms. There are two significant reasons why discounting women as a source of skilled labor in farm management is becoming an increasingly untenable prospect.

  1. Subsisting on relatively small parcels of land leaves farmers vulnerable to fluctuations in output. Because population growth and regular divisions of hereditary ownership make land parcels ever smaller, families that make do with smaller farms do not have the luxury of maintaining inefficient practices when handling their crops or their labor pool. A report by Victoria University says Pakistan’s high concentration of household farms means greater efficiency can be achieved, in this case, by including female labor. This translates into direct income boosts for families along with greater business activity thanks to new surpluses.
  2. Running a successful farm with little land is already dependent on women. Despite lacking gainful employment, women are informal participants in the Pakistani economy through unpaid domestic work. Victoria University’s study correlates a lack of job training and reduced output from inefficient practices, meaning that a lack of trained women is a bottleneck stifling household income growth.

Individual Growth for Women

Households stand to benefit from elevating women in the agricultural labor pool. Furthermore, developing female labor in Pakistan by addressing women’s exclusion in skilled practice will reverse the economic misfortune that prior restrictions have inflicted on women.

Because most women tie their fortunes as self-employed laborers to those of their families, increasing farm income is an effective way to enrich farming women’s income. Growth for Rural Enhancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) is yet another initiative operating in Pakistan working to achieve this goal. Its primary objective, according to coverage by Intracen (International Trade Centre), is training women to care for livestock and teaching them how to trade their produce. Rather than simply teaching women how to produce more, job training affords them additional autonomy by empowering them to take on a managerial role in the distribution process.

Economic Empowerment for Women

Sharmeela Rassool, a Pakistani country representative to the United Nations, emphasizes the importance of individual autonomy when it comes to increasing the participation rate of female labor in Pakistan. “For many women, entrepreneurship offers a path to economic empowerment,” she wrote in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. More and more women are using their educational attainment to run businesses outside the agricultural sector.

While COVID-19 has slowed economic growth across Pakistan, it has also exposed systemic inequality, raising an opportunity to put women in a starring role for economic recovery. The gradually decreasing gender wage gap indicates that the current trend of a diversifying workforce has yet to reach its ceiling. Overall, women’s inclusivity in Pakistan has the potential to create widespread benefits for Pakistan, helping the nation to rise out of poverty.

Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Pakistan
As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the developing world, the World Bank estimates that there will be between 119 to 124 million additional people added to poverty due to economic standstills. Developing countries are at high risk of an increase in poverty, including Pakistan. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Pakistan is substantial, but the government and other organizations have been cooperating to minimize the impact.

COVID-19’s Impact on Pakistan

In Pakistan, to date, there have been more than 22,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Vaccination programs have experienced delays, with only about 2% of the population of Pakistan currently vaccinated. To receive the vaccine, residents pay around $78, a luxury that many Pakistanis cannot afford. Due to the U.K. strain, cases are rising again. However, government officials are hesitant to enforce a strict lockdown as they did in March 2020. Rather, the government utilized the popular “smart” or “micro” lockdowns, where only specific areas go into lockdown. However, limited data exists on the success rates of these strategies.

Pre-Pandemic Pakistan

Even before the pandemic, Pakistan’s health system had limitations. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), before COVID-19, Pakistan had a ratio of one doctor to 963 people and a lack of universal healthcare. Before the virus, the poverty rate in Pakistan declined by 40% over the last two decades. However, the economic impacts of the pandemic halted poverty reduction progress.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Children

COVID-19 has impacted women and children in Pakistan more significantly than men. Due to the virus, these vulnerable groups are suffering several consequences. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in Pakistan. In June 2020, nearly 42 million children were out of school, with 17 million children younger than 5 missing routine vaccinations.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the shutdowns due to COVID-19 have disproportionately affected women, and in particular, the garment industry, which makes up a substantial part of Pakistan’s exports. In Pakistan, the majority of the population has employment within the garment industry, with approximately one in seven women working in this sector.

To rectify the bleak situation, the Pakistan Workers Federation and the Employers Federation of Pakistan issued a joint statement of cooperation and the government provided wage support. These efforts also included a “no lay off” order and an interest rate reduction for employers who retain their employees.

The Good News

While the situation looks bleak, the government and organizations are taking action to relieve the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Pakistan. The U.N. Development Programme established a COVID-19 Secretariat at Pakistan’s Planning Commission in 2020 to facilitate the economic and social response to the pandemic in conjunction with U.N. agencies. The Secretariat supported the Pakistani government’s 2020-2021 budget and National Action Plan for COVID-19.

To alleviate the lockdown’s hardships in 2020, the government issued unconditional cash transfers of approximately $70 to 12 million vulnerable households to prevent food insecurity. To continue to support the most vulnerable population, Ehsaas, the federal social protection program, made extra payments to 4.5 million families. Under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash initiative, another 7.5 million households received monetary assistance.

Dr. Sania Nishtar, the leader of Ehsaas, said in an interview with Mckinsey, that Ehsaas “invested” heavily in time, money, energy and effort to build infrastructure, including an SMS-based request-seeking mechanism, which allowed for ease in eligibility determinations and digital payments.

The World Bank ranked Ehsaas as one of the top four social protection programs by coverage. In March 2021, the World Bank issued a statement supporting the program by approving $600 million to expand Ehsaas. The fund allocation will facilitate the expansion of the programs to reach more informal workers.

Looking Ahead

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Pakistan is significant, however, the government and organizations are working together to provide social protection to the most vulnerable groups and will continue to do so as vaccination rates increase.

– Lalitha Shanmugasundaram
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in PakistanFor more than 60 years, the U.S. and Pakistan have shared a mutually beneficial relationship. Pakistan is the world’s fifth-most populous nation and one of the fastest-growing economies. Recent U.S. funding through USAID has targeted economic growth as well as peace and health in Pakistan. Two current areas of emphasis, education and gender empowerment, have seen recent success through USAID programs in Pakistan, serving as a powerful example of the potential impact of aid and investment in developing nations.

The Sindh Basic Education Program

USAID has worked closely with the Government of Pakistan to improve the nation’s overall access to schools and quality of education. The Sindh Basic Education Program (SBEP) targets the Sindh region of Pakistan. The region was affected by devastating floods in 2010 and is home to 47.9 million people.

Through USAID, the U.S. has invested $159.2 million in building schools to increase primary, middle and secondary school enrollment. The program will ultimately see the construction of 106 new schools in flood-affected areas as well as the consolidation of up to 280 existing schools. These newly merged schools will help streamline and revolutionize Pakistan’s education system.

The program aims to reduce the number of small, underfunded and understaffed schools in favor of more reliable teaching and an easier flow of resources. SBEP has the potential to increase enrollment while improving the reading skills of more than 400,000 Pakistani children. The program also looks to enhance overall child nutrition.

Reducing the Gender Gap and Increasing Budget

One of SBEP’s objectives is to shrink the gender gap in Pakistan’s education system. The program will designate 18 schools constructed under SBEP specifically for adolescent girls. These spaces will include computer and science lab resources. USAID partnered with Intel to train learners and educators in information and communications technology, specifically in these girls’ education facilities.

Another goal of SBEP is to, “provide technical assistance to the Education and Literacy Department of the Government of Sindh,” a process that has already started to positively influence Pakistan’s government. Sindh Provincial Education Minister Saeed Ghani announced a 13.5% budget increase for the Schools Education and Literacy Department for the fiscal year 2021-22. This denotes the nation’s heightened emphasis on providing access to high-quality education.

Prioritizing Gender Empowerment in Pakistan

USAID programs in Pakistan prioritize addressing gender inequality in the country. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Pakistan ranks third-last in the world in terms of gender equality due to high rates of gender-based violence and a general lack of both economic opportunity and sexual and reproductive health rights for women. The U.S. and Pakistan have identified gender empowerment as a necessary vehicle for national growth and development.

Aside from boosting girls’ access to education, USAID gender empowerment initiatives cover several areas of need, aiming to create a more inclusive and equitable society. Beginning in 2012, “USAID-supported interventions have helped nearly 11 million women and children receive quality maternal, child and reproductive healthcare services.” The organization also trained Pakistani women to administer quality “health services to women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province through a mobile health unit program.”

Female Economic Empowerment

Programs also promote entrepreneurship and job creation, specifically for Pakistani women. USAID has impacted at least 50,000 female entrepreneurs with business development services, training and grants. By funding training and new technologies in agriculture, USAID helped create job opportunities for women.

USAID also assisted with placing female graduates in the male-dominated yet burgeoning Pakistani energy sector. Furthermore, USAID contributed to training close to “16,000 female political party representatives” to improve female representation in politics. USAID’s efforts focus on the development of women — a key step in diminishing the nation’s gender gap and lifting women out of poverty.

The Power of Partnership

Between reforming education by building and consolidating schools and empowering women through improved healthcare and career opportunities, USAID programs in Pakistan are fundamentally changing the lives of those most in need. The successes of USAID programs highlight the benefits of partnerships as the U.S. and Pakistan collaborate to reduce poverty and inequality.

Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

USAID’s PATTA ProgramFarming plays a dominant role in the national economy of Pakistan. With a population of more than 200 million, Pakistan is heavily reliant on agriculture to provide food for people. Agriculture contributes almost 20% to Pakistan’s GDP, and as of 2019, employs more than 40% of the workforce. Smallholder farms are often at a disadvantage as they have limited access to improved technology, which prevents them from producing high yields of crops. To combat this issue, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has funded the Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA), an initiative designed to increase Pakistani farmers’ access to improved agricultural technology. USAID’s PATTA program is also designed to encourage private sector investment in agriculture to increase incomes and efficiency.

Agriculture in Pakistan

Despite the overwhelming need to preserve the agricultural sector, the industry has seen a decline in productivity over the years. Pakistan is especially vulnerable to environmental degradation and instances of water shortages and extreme temperature fluctuations have severely damaged the country’s ability to produce enough crops to feed its populace. As a result, Pakistan stands to benefit from the advancements in agricultural technology. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), these improved technologies can aid in improving agricultural productivity by 70% by the year 2050.

The PATTA Program

To assist Pakistani farmers with obtaining improved agricultural technologies, USAID funds the four-year PATTA program which began in 2017. This program “enables the private sector to give Pakistani farmers access to innovative agricultural products and management practices, which improve productivity and enhance competitiveness.” To facilitate this, USAID introduced the “Agri-Tech Hub” in 2020, a comprehensive suite of agricultural technologies with the potential to change the lives of farmers. The PATTA program encourages  private sector investment in Pakistani agriculture “to commercialize the types of agricultural technologies that enable smallholders to increase their incomes, create jobs and enhance economic growth and stability.”

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) is an agricultural organization that is also involved with the PATTA program. This organization assists agricultural technology businesses in expanding their markets by doing cost-benefit analyses as well as creating strategies on how these businesses can provide technical support and build capacity for small farmers. Additionally, the CNFA sets up demonstration events in which businesses can display the effectiveness of their products. These events often use different mediums such as radio and the internet in order to reach many different groups of people. Overall, the CNFA is involved in every step of the PATTA program. The CNFA helps agribusinesses market their technologies effectively while making sure farmers can get their specific needs met.

PATTA’s Impact During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had dramatic impacts on agricultural production around the world. In Pakistan, PATTA has been assisting local governments in raising awareness of safety protocols through digital communication. For example, during the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, PATTA partnered with the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s agriculture department in developing “tele-farming advisory services on agricultural technologies” through SMS and robocalls to deliver pertinent information to farmers.

PATTA has also utilized the radio in order to spread its messages. From May to July 2020, PATTA encouraged the use of agricultural technologies via radio broadcast to 23 selected districts across Pakistan, reaching approximately three million people. The use of digital communications allowed for social distancing as the pandemic prevented conventional meetings from taking place.

USAID’s PATTA program helps farmers acquire improved technologies in order to increase their crop yields. By engaging with the private sector, PATTA assists both agribusinesses and farmers in expanding. The concrete outcomes of the program are yet to be released, but nonetheless, it is clear that agricultural technologies have the potential to increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and reduce poverty in Pakistan.

– Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Children in Pakistan
Pakistan is a mostly Muslim country between Afghanistan and India in South Asia. The country gained independence in 1947 and the government operates as a parliamentary democracy. In recent years, the country has adopted Sunni Islam’s essence, with Northern Pakistan facilitating a sanctuary for various Islamic extremist groups. The life expectancy in the country averages 67 years. In 2015, an Asian Development Bank report determined that 24.3% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and UNAIDS claimed that 190,000 Pakistani are HIV positive. The organization also stated that the number of deaths from HIV cases has increased by 385% since 2010, with only 12% of patients receiving treatment. Unfortunately, the number of children in Pakistan with HIV has been significant.

Recent HIV Outbreak

Between April and July 2019, medical professionals diagnosed 735 children in Pakistan with HIV. The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the epidemic as a Grade Two Emergency. This implies a moderate approach to combating the problem since, according to WHO, Pakistan is one of the lowest spending countries when it comes to funding for health. Pakistan utilizes only 3% of its GDP for healthcare, whereas its neighbor, Afghanistan, allots 10%. Per person, Pakistan spends less than $45 on annual healthcare.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many essential health issues have received neglect. In September 2020, Lancet Global Health constructed an investigation around how the pandemic has affected other health crises. In its findings, reports determined that deaths for HIV have increased by 10% since the beginning of the pandemic. The medical system has been under stress due to the pandemic, leading to a decrease in medical support for HIV. During this time, a local reporter named Gulbahar Shaikh, who had been covering a story in Ratodero around this time, decided to have his children tested to be safe. He was reportedly stunned when his daughter, Rida, came back positive for HIV.

Solutions

In November 2019, cases of HIV-positive children in Pakistan started to emerge in Ratodero, a city just north of Larkana. In fact, reports stated that 1,132 children had HIV in Ratodero. As soon as possible, the local government sent experts to respond. During their investigations, it came to light that many of the patients did not have infected parents, which set off a red flag to officials. They later found that many of the infected children saw a doctor named Muzaffar Ghanghro. He was a cheap, in-town physician working primarily with children. Finding this, officials made Ghanghro obtain a test for HIV too. Even when his results came back positive for HIV, he denied the results.

The officials found Ghanghro fully responsible for the increase in outbreaks within children in Ratodero, and police arrested him. He spent about two months in jail but the pediatrician has not received any charges.

In 2019, $6.3 million went into funding investigations for children in Pakistan with HIV, resulting in the shutting down of 300 medical facilities in Ratodero. However, unlicensed private clinics still function on “nearly every block,” and several facilities do not even have a place for physicians to wash their hands.

Save the Children

In 2020, UNAIDS and the United Nations HIV program reported that 2.8 million individuals under 20 were living with HIV. Additionally, over 50% of those individuals were under 10 years old.

An organization fighting for the betterment of children named Save the Children works in Pakistan. Together with the National Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Network, the organization provides reputable health facility managers to implement more humane health responses. The Mothers, Newborn and Child Health Program (MNCH) is an integral part of what Save the Children offers for healthcare. The program provides improved services from households to hospitals to moms and their children. The program’s focus is on the already existing primary healthcare facilities within areas of poverty in Pakistan. The program ensures a healthier emergency and medical experience for children in Pakistan.

Save the Children also has an initiative explicitly targeting individuals with HIV/AIDS. The project consists of providing more support to the physicians practicing in Pakistan. This program provides care to People Living with HIV (PLHIV) through Community and Home-Based Care services. The service actively raises awareness on transmission causes along with referring cases to further investigations. Together with the other efforts, Pakistan hopes to change the trend of rising HIV numbers.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in PakistanThe country of Pakistan struggles with several issues. Military operations against insurgent activities within the country have caused many Pakistani people to become displaced. Pakistan is also home to 3 million Afghans, with 1.4 million being registered refugees. This makes Pakistan the second-largest refugee host country in the world. Additionally, Pakistan suffers from natural disasters and food shortages. Pakistan’s economy suffers from imbalance because, for short periods, the economy does well, and then, it declines. This is what the World Bank terms “boom-bust cycles.” These collective issues mean humanitarian aid in Pakistan is imperative in order to address the country’s pressing issues.

The European Union Assists

The European Union (E.U.) has contributed a fair amount of humanitarian aid to Pakistan. In 2020, the E.U. addressed some of the concerns regarding internally displaced Pakistani people and Afghan refugees by providing around €40 million worth of aid. Around 60% of this amount goes towards resolving health concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. The pandemic has put the Pakistani healthcare system under strain, which makes aid increasingly important. The humanitarian aid in Pakistan is also helping to give displaced Pakistanis access to quality education and sanitation facilities.

Aid also reaches Afghan refugees who have not integrated into Pakistani society and instead live in isolated communities within Pakistan. The E.U. helps these Afghan refugees by providing them with proper healthcare, education and sanitation facilities. The E.U. support also addresses the natural disasters that occur in Pakistan. The E.U. provided €1.15 million to Pakistan in August 2020 when the country experienced severe flooding. The aid that the E.U. provided allowed for shelter toolkits, personal hygiene supplies and access to reliable water and sanitation for families that these events impacted.

The International Rescue Committee Helps

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is another organization providing significant humanitarian aid in Pakistan. From 2013 to 2019, the IRC worked with Pakistan on the Pakistan Reading Project (PRP), which aimed to improve the reading skills of 1.3 million Pakistani children. The program reached more than 1.7 million students and trained more than 27,000 teachers. The IRC further supports the education of Pakistani children by building and repairing schools. Considering the amount of displaced Pakistani people and Afghan refugees, the IRC provides what it calls “child-friendly places.” These are areas where children are safe to interact with other children and learn and heal from traumatic events they have experienced.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is an organization that has been providing humanitarian aid in Pakistan since 1988. One area, in particular, is disaster response. The AKAH trains Pakistani volunteers on how to deal with any natural disasters they may encounter. These volunteers would be the first responders if a natural disaster occurs in the area they live in. These volunteers are called Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). The AKAH has been able to establish 162 CERTs and a total of 36,000 volunteers serve as first responders. More than 50% of the 36,000 volunteers are women.

Pakistan is an impoverished nation and therefore needs humanitarian assistance to deal with the many challenges it faces. These three organizations provide aid that addresses these pressing issues.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Pakistani Flood ReliefWhen the Indus River flooded Pakistan in 2010, the effects were widespread and devastating. Among those that were hit hard were Pakistani children whose schools were severely affected by the flooding. It is estimated that the floods destroyed or damaged more than 10,000 schools. Fast forward 11 years later, however, USAID has announced a major milestone in the now eight-year-long Pakistani flood relief project called the USAID-Sindh Basic Education Programme. USAID reports the completion of 106 schools in Sindh, a province stricken by flood damages.

The 2010 Indus River Floods

The Indus River floods in July and August 2010 were a result of massive monsoon rains causing severe flash flooding in Pakistan. The floods were estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than one million homes and affected more than 20 million people in the region. The impact was felt in just about every area of life in Pakistan.

Industries like farming and healthcare were severely hurt by the floods. Farmers were estimated to have lost millions of acres of usable land and more than a million livestock. Additionally, more than 500 hospitals or clinics in the region were reportedly damaged or destroyed.

On top of this, data from UNICEF in 2010 indicated that more than 1.6 million children either saw their schools damaged by floodwaters or converted into shelters. The massive displacement of children even resulted in fears of a rise in militia kidnappings at the time.

In total, the economic impact of all of that damage done by the floods was estimated as a loss of $43 billion.

USAID’s Pakistani Flood Relief

USAID has given more than $159 million toward education relief following the flood, with $81 million of the funding put directly toward the construction of new schools in northern Sindh. The money helped facilitate the completion of 106 schools, with 14 additional schools targeted to be finished by 2023. The schools will help serve more than 50,000 students in Sindh whose schools were affected by the flood.

These new schools have been built with the inclusion of elements like laboratories and computers in order to turn them into templates for the kind of high-quality educational standard that can hopefully be provided to other areas in the country in the future.

The State of Pakistan’s Education System

Despite efforts, Pakistan’s education system still faces challenges. According to UNICEF, just 56% of Pakistani children between the ages of 5 and 16 are currently in school. This means the country has more than 22 million children in this age range out of school, making Pakistan the country with the second-most out-of-school children in the world.

Additionally, significantly fewer children are enrolled in secondary school compared to primary school and significant gaps exist in overall schooling services. Socioeconomic gaps, for example, are prevalent in areas like Sindh where only 48% of the most impoverished children in the region are in school.

In other regions like Balochistan, significant gender gaps have emerged. Only 22% of girls are in school in the region. This reflects an overarching gender problem which can be seen in the disproportionate number of boys compared to girls in the education system as a whole.

Nevertheless, USAID’s newly completed schools as part of the Pakistani flood relief efforts represent the start of positive progress being made in the country’s education system. With each and every effort, Pakistani children are given an opportunity to rise out of poverty.

Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Tech Startups Help PakistanPakistani tech startups are growing at an unprecedented rate. Every year, the country has an output of more than 20,000 graduates who are trained in the field of information technology (IT). Since 2010, there have been 700 tech startups and around 70% of the startups are still operational as of 2020. The Pakistani economy reaps the benefits of the booming industry. One example that shows the importance this sector can have for the Pakistani economy is WhatsApp. WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton developed WhatsApp and Facebook bought it for $19 billion. The price of the acquisition exceeds the defense budget of Pakistan almost three times over. Tech startups help Pakistan by encouraging economic growth.

The Success of Tech Startups

Many successful tech startups are helping Pakistan because the startups have developed useful apps. For example, the Patari app is a streaming provider for music lovers and was able to obtain $200,000 worth of seed funding in 2017. Eatoye is another app that has had much success in Pakistan. Eatoye provides food delivery, catching the interest of the food portal FoodPanda, which acquired the app. Similar apps have been particularly successful in Pakistan’s domestic market. However, tech startups have found success in the international market as well. Tech startups that focus on IT have succeeded in exporting software. These software exports have made a total of $700 million, but Pakistani IT experts believe that the number is much higher. When taking into account the amount of freelance work, software exports could bring in as much as $2.5 billion.

Tech Startups in Pakistan

Pakistan has several tech startups that currently provide valuable services to its people. Zameen.com was founded in 2006 and is extremely well-funded and informative. Zameen.com allows people to make financial decisions regarding properties in major Pakistani cities. This includes investing, buying, selling or renting. The valuation of the startup is around $80 million, showcasing its popularity. Another startup called Airlift has been extremely useful for commuters. Airlift allows commuters to book luxurious buses to get to their destinations, which is extremely useful for many middle-class Pakistani workers. These examples are just two of many tech startups that are helping Pakistan.

Pakistan Reaps the Rewards

Tech startups can be beneficial to the economy of a nation for many reasons. One way is through the creation of goods and services at a high growth output rate, which older companies usually cannot match. Additionally, tech startups often tap into new markets or can reform old ones. However, startups are most beneficial to the economy because they contribute to the creation of jobs in a country. Startups create more opportunities for employment since they can add to job creation at a rate of 25% or more.

Pakistan’s unemployment rate was expected to rise to 6.65 million Pakistani people between 2020 and 2021. Tech startups help Pakistan by improving the economy of the nation and by aiding in job creation to accommodate a growing number of people without jobs. The beneficiaries of an improved economy will be the people of Pakistan.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Honor-Based Violence
In 2020, family members murdered two women after a video from the previous year surfaced online of the women kissing a man. This murder is just one of 5,000 “honor-based” killings that happen every year. Girls as young as 15 have died just for helping neighbors elope. Here is some information about honor-based violence.

What is Honor-Based Violence?

Honor killings are one type of honor-based violence. Honor-based violence is any violence that occurs with the purpose of restoring the honor of a family or community, and thus, the victim’s family members or community members usually commit it. Violence, in this case, includes any physical or psychological attack. The most common forms of honor-based violence are acid assaults, genital mutilation, forced marriage and murder. Girls or women typically face the most honor-based violence, but men can be targets as well.

Honor-based violence frequently occurs due to the desire for female purity. The practice stems from cultural ideologies that women belong to men or are a symbol of their family’s honor.

Traditionally, some cultures consider men “guardians of female value,” and therefore, experience dishonor if a woman becomes worthless by destroying her virtue. A woman can experience condemnation for ruining her “value” even if she suffers rape or assault.

History and Statistics of Honor-Based Violence

The practice of honor killings dates back to ancient Babylon, connecting to tribal traditions of burying baby girls alive. Although honor killings have undergone justification in the name of Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, the practice does not have any basis in religion. On the contrary, religious leaders frequently condemn this violence.

Estimates have determined that about 1,100 people die in honor killings per year in Pakistan. This is only slightly more than in India, which is about 1,000 people. While Pakistan and India record the most honor killings, they are not the only places where these murders happen. Records of honor killings exist in the U.K., the U.S., Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey and Uganda. Many places do not document honor killings or record them under other types of violence. Therefore, it is hard to know exactly how many honor killings occur and where they happen.

Activists and Artists

While thousands of honor killings happen each year, many activists have been working to change the culture. For one, they are trying to end the legal and colloquial use of the phrase “honor killing” and instead make sure people use the word murder.

Activists and artists throughout the world have made documentaries about honor killings. In 2016, journalist and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her film “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” The movie follows the story of Saba, a young woman from Pakistan who survived an attempted murder against her after she married without her family’s permission.

The film was so influential that the Pakistani Prime Minister vowed to change the laws surrounding honor killings. In fact, that same year, the government passed the Anti-Honor Killing Bill. The bill states that families can no longer pardon people who murder their family members due to “honor.” Before the enactment of this bill, a family could forgive someone for murdering their family member out of honor. In such a case, the murderer would not receive a charge or penalty.

Obaid-Chinoy is not the only one who has created influential documentaries. In 2021, filmmaker Safyah Usmani worked with MTV and Obaid-Chinoy on her documentary “A Life Too Short,” which follows the life of Pakastani star, Qandeel Baloch, and her death by her brother. While many well-known documentaries have emerged in Pakistan, it is not the only country that features in these films. ITV aired a documentary in 2020 about the murder of a London woman, Banaz Mahmod.

Honour-Based Violence Awareness Network

In addition to films, activists have collected resources to help teach people about the tradition. One such project is the Honour-Based Violence Awareness Network that “intends to advise professionals in how to identify and provide an effective response to these forms of violence, and to provide links to [organizations] with expertise in providing help to people at risk.” Founded by activists Deeyah and Joanne Payton, the website provides training and other informational resources for anyone interested in learning more about honor-based violence.

With films and advocacy groups, awareness about honor-based violence has increased. Increased awareness of the issue, along with an increased pressure to cease such harmful patriarchal practices, will hopefully continue to include policy change.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Government
Worldwide, more people have access to mobile phones than to proper sanitation. As crazy as it sounds, mobile phone access can be advantageous. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that out of the 7 billion people on earth, around 6.5 billion have access to a mobile phone. As of 2018, 100% of the population in low- and middle-income countries had access to mobile phones, whereas 55% of the population in low-income countries owned a mobile phone. The pervasiveness of mobile technology can help build expansive government networks. Mobile Government (mGov) could provide citizens and businesses with extended benefits and stir up overall economic growth.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, several countries with pre-established digital governments have launched public services that people can access via mobile phones. The introduction of these online services could be a blessing for developing countries, where the communication between the government and the residents is almost nonexistent.

What is a Mobile Government (mGov)?

Mobile Government is a government-led platform that uses mobile technology to increase active participation in government operations while offering several government services and applications that individuals can access electronically. It provides quick and easy access to integrated data and location-based services and helps to empower citizens. Here are different ways Mobile Government can make a positive impact.

Increased Financial Inclusion

As per World Bank reports, by 2018, the number of people holding bank accounts shrank from 2.5 billion to 1.2 billion in just seven years. As a result, less than 50% of the adult population did not have a link to traditional banking systems. Therefore, to increase the financial inclusion of the citizens, governments all across the globe are undertaking initiatives to encourage and support the development of financial technologies.

In India, Jio, an Indian telecommunications company, in collaboration with the government, stirred a socio-economic revolution by providing subsidized 4G service to more than 200 million subscribers in under two years. Likewise, the mobile currency has transformed the Kenyan economy. More than three-fourths of the population have gained access to mobile wallets (M-Pesa) and can participate in financial transactions.

Similarly, online services can be useful in distributing money among the poor since only a small fraction have operational bank accounts. About 1.2 billion users across 95 countries use mobile money. Many countries use mobile payment services to provide monetary assistance through Government-to-person (G2P) payment systems.

In Bangladesh, the government is providing 5 million families with economic support by transferring money online, ensuring that families have a stable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The usage of mobile has helped reduce corruption dramatically, improve access to financial services and boost participation in economic activities.

Better Access to Essential Services

Mobiles have made access to health, education, agriculture and other services trouble-free for the general public. In the same way, mobile phones are going toward addressing serious health problems. Increased communication can bring awareness about safe drinking water, birth control, maternal health and malnutrition amongst many others.

Globally, 774 million people are unable to read or write. Out of that group, 123 million are youth. One can frequently trace illiteracy to a lack of books. Studies have revealed a positive correlation between high illiteracy rates and a shortage of books. The majority of people in sub-Saharan African do not have access to books and the schools in the region rarely do anything about it. As a solution, several developing countries have replaced physical texts with online books, allowing a larger proportion to access books. For instance, educators in schools in countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria and Pakistan read stories to the children from mobile phones.

Mobile phones can also combat dengue fever in Pakistan. Sanitary workers use smartphones to send geo-tagged images of swamps to the central health experts. Afterward, health experts monitor the images.

The agriculture sector in Ethiopia and Uganda also utilizes mobile phones in a significant way. It employs mobile phones to deliver early alerts on droughts, food shortages, pests and weather-related calamities.

Enables Social Accountability

The governments in developing countries are using mobile technology to promote the use of SMS texts to enhance social accountability among the citizens. A study that took place in 46 African countries unearthed a correlation between high mobile penetration and low corruption rates.

In several developing countries, citizens receive encouragement to notify their governments of any matters that require addressing. In Pakistan, the Director-General of the Passport Office sends a message to the visitors inquiring about any bribery encounters or any other issues.

Mobile Government can be a powerful tool, useful in extending access to existing services, developing further innovative, inclusive services and increasing citizen participation in all realms of the public sector. Mobiles can dynamically foster civic engagement, facilitate transparent democracy, reform the outdated educational systems and create advanced healthcare infrastructure in developing countries. The use of mobile technology can tackle the growing digital divide between low-income and high-income countries. Hopefully, this will uplift the economies and literacy rates in developing countries.

– Prathamesh Mantri
Photo: Flickr