Gender Equality in Pakistan
Throughout the years, U.S. organizations and agencies have worked in cooperation with the government of Pakistan and other development partners to establish gender equality in Pakistan. These efforts work to ensure Pakistani women feel empowered to pursue opportunities just as brazenly as their male counterparts.

History: Relations Between Pakistan and the United States

Since Pakistan gained independence in 1947, the United States has provided considerable support in the overall development of the country. The U.S. was one of the first nations to recognize Pakistan as an independent nation.

For more than 60 years, Pakistan and the U.S. have forged a strong, cooperative relationship that has proven to benefit the people of both countries.

Achieving Gender Equality in Pakistan

In recent years, there have been important advancements in gender equality in Pakistan. Today, Pakistani women are more likely to participate in the labor force and access health and educational services than their mothers and grandmothers would have. Pakistan also has a relatively strong women’s political representation —  about a fifth of parliamentary seats held by women.

However, there is still significant progress to be made if Pakistani women are to be full partners in the development of Pakistan. Women comprise more than half of Pakistan’s population and yet only 22.7 percent are part of the labor force. Even those who are part of the labor force belong largely to the informal sector, receiving little pay and few legal protections.

Also, while Pakistan enjoys a high gross enrollment rate of 89 percent of girls in primary schools, that rate drops to about 41 percent of girls who are enrolled in secondary schools.

Female Empowerment

The empowerment of women and girls is a critical aspect of any prosperous, democratic society. Female empowerment in Pakistan will not only safeguard human rights but also further international peace and security while establishing a growing, vibrant market economy.

Through the efforts of a combination of many organizations such as the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan is even closer to achieving gender equality.

USAID: The Gender Equality Program (GEP)

The Gender Equality Program (GEP) actively works to diminish the gender gap in Pakistan by supporting women’s economic, political, and social advancement. The program helps women become full and active members of their own society by providing access to information, resources and public services.

The GEP also works to change the derogatory societal attitudes towards women in Pakistan. This program educates women about their fundamental rights at home, at work and in society.

A staggering 32 percent of all Pakistani women have experienced physical violence; 40 percent of married Pakistani women have experienced spousal abuse. Even more concerning, one in two Pakistani women who have experienced physical abuse never sought help.

Through the support of the GEP, local activities are conducted to expand women’s knowledge of and ability to exercise their rights and obtain justice. The GEP helps women’s shelters provide legal aid, counseling and vocational skills that connect women to potential employers.

Empowering Girls Through Education

USAID also has programs such as the Sindh Basic Education Program and the Improving Education Quality Project to ensure more girls have the opportunity to pursue an education. These programs mobilize communities to increase girls’ school enrollment rates and train more female teachers, which encourages Pakistani families to send their girls to school.

USAID also provides scholarships to women pursuing higher education through the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship program (MNSBP) and the Fulbright Program. MNSBP gifts university scholarships to academically talented, economically disadvantaged Pakistani students.

Major Accomplishments in Gender Equality in Pakistan

Pakistani women have experienced major improvements in regards to gender equality. The USAID has provided shelter, legal, health and economic support to nearly 40,000 victims of gender-based violence while also committing $70 million to help educate and empower over 200,000 adolescent Pakistani girls.

Although, societal beliefs of traditional gender roles may be difficult to break, raising awareness about women’s rights and supporting pro-women laws is a significant step towards achieving gender equality in Pakistan.

– Lolontika Hoque
Photo: Flickr

Canadian Foreign Aid
People in the U.S. generally know little about their northern neighbor, Canada. Its parliamentary system, federal system and until recently, its leader remained unknown. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has changed that. The charismatic gentleman held the spotlight, at least for a time, in the press. However, many of his international supporters may find a surprise waiting for them across the border. According to the BBC, Canadian foreign aid spending is ranked last among its peers.

According to the CBC, a year after Prime Minister Trudeau took office in 2015, Canadian foreign aid shrank by 4.4 percent. Now, this could be attributed to the prior government. It is difficult to rearrange an entire government’s budget overnight; it is difficult to do it even in a year. For comparison, the 29 other members of the Development Assistance Committee, a part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, agreed to a minimum of 0.7 percent of a nation’s gross national income. Canada allocated 0.28 percent, or $3.9 billion. Unfortunately, in 2016, only six countries in OECD met their goal.

There is some hope for an increase in Canadian foreign aid in the future. According to Canadian Financial Minister Bill Morneau, Canada will add $2 billion to its foreign aid budget in 2018. This comes at a time when the prime minister has decided to adopt a feminist international assistance policy. Within the same five years that Canada will increase its foreign aid budget, it will also change and narrow its target. The prime minister set a goal that 95 percent of Canadian foreign aid will be aimed at gender equality. The money will be used to fund educational programs and charities in particular. This increase in funding is the largest in 16 years and has earned praise from charities throughout Canada and from U2 frontman and philanthropist Bono.

Private Sector Partnerships a Part of Canadian Foreign Aid

Nations around the world, especially the U.S. and the U.K., use private sector partnerships to boost economic development in certain areas. These are areas where the private sector partner can also turn a profit. These partnerships are controversial because of the unpredictable social, economic and environmental impacts they have on the local area and population. However, they have also had positive results in many communities.

In Burkina Faso, for example, the material wealth of the people working in the mines improved after Canadian company Iamgold partnered with the Canadian government to open the largest mine in West Africa. Housing was built, utilities improved and schools and medical centers were constructed. Due to Canada’s mining expertise (the country is home to more than 60 percent of the world’s mining companies), the government has decided to focus on mines. Prime Minister Trudeau intends to include these private sector partnerships in his new plan.

It seems that Canada’s new prime minister means well and wants to expand Canada’s positive global impact. It can take many years for a nation to adjust the course of its spending, and Canadian foreign aid is slowly heading in a positive direction. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used “Canada is back” as a slogan during his campaign in 2015. In 2018, Canada will begin its increase in foreign aid and its new feminist program. It will also host the G7 summit in June. This year is the year that Justin Trudeau can prove Canada is back.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Until now, there has been no method to assess the effectiveness of Gender Equality Programs (GEPs) in developing countries. In July 2015, UN Women published a research report entitled “The Effect of Gender Equality Programming on Humanitarian Outcomes.” The researchers developed a unique assessment tool, Gender Intensity Measure, to analyze data and determine the degree to which gender equality and women’s empowerment are perceived to be effective by the beneficiaries of GEPs.

The research, commissioned by UN Women, was conducted by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in 2013 and co-funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada. IDS collected and analyzed information from four case-study locations: Nepal, the Philippines and two sites in Kenya: the county of Turkana and the Dadaab refugee camps.

The research study surveyed over 2,000 households in crisis and focus groups in the four locations. The Gender Intensity Measure interviewed women as well as men, humanitarian workers and community leaders to determine how gender-sensitive programs promote gender equality and empower women—and why.

The report confirms that the quality of life for all community members is improved with GEPs. The study measured improved humanitarian outcomes as well as gender equality for all community members. Specific examples of the effectiveness of GEPs from each of the four sites include:

In Nepal, women were able to afford school fees and supplies for their children because of programs that promote income-earning opportunities for women.

In the Philippines, hunger was decreased by 37 percent in households where women reported being more satisfied with the availability of gender equality programming.

In Dadaab refugee camps, 70-90 percent of pregnancy deliveries were attended by skilled personnel due to programs encouraging women to utilize safer delivery options.

In Turkana, the proportion of literate children per household rose by 4.8 percent, due to increasing the Gender Intensity Measure from low to high.

In the Philippines, Nepal and Turkana, women noted greater decision-making power when humanitarian services were considered to be gender-equal.

In Dadaab, women noted greater empowerment and young girls’ aspirations increased when women held leadership roles in the implementation of humanitarian services.

“The Effect of Gender Equality Programming on Humanitarian Outcomes” also provides guidance as to how to increase the effectiveness in the future. For example, two issues that need improvement are increasing awareness of GEPs and the involvement of men and boys in order to empower women.

Prior to this unique research, GEPs were measured only on paper by how well they prioritize gender equality programming according to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Gender Marker. The Gender Marker rated aid proposals only to see if they were designed well, meaning if they would satisfactorily benefit women, men, girls and boys equally. The Marker also predicts (but does not measure) the effectiveness of a program.

Humanitarian programs that promote gender-sensitive programming are crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. “Empowering women and girls is not only the right thing to do: It’s also smart economics and vital to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity,” according to the World Bank.

Janet Quinn

Sources: U.N. Women 1, U.N. Women 2, WHO Western Pacific Region, IRIN, World Bank
Photo: Why Poverty