Pakistan tells UN it is committed to women empowerment and achieving SDGs

New York, 15 March, 2018

At the UN, Pakistan expressed its firm commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), highlighting various steps taken by the Federal and the Provincial Governments for women’s empowerment.

Speaking at the 62nd Session of the Commission on Status of Women, Dr. Shezra Mansab Ali Khan, MNA and head of Pakistan’s delegation said, SDG Task forces, both at the Federal and the Provincial level, have made well resourced and concrete action plans for achieving women’s empowerment across all SDGs.

“Pakistan has also enacted a spate of laws for prevention of customary practices, and strengthen laws to punish rape and honour crimes”, she added.

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals and full realization of the rights of rural women and girls, Dr. Ali said, would require renewed commitment, increased investment and significantly greater financing from all sources, including official development assistance and by the national Governments.

The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The priority theme for this year’s deliberations is, ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls’.

She told the world body that Pakistan’s constitution guarantees equal rights for all its citizens without discrimination. It also ensures full participation of women in all spheres of national life. “None of us can move forward if half of us are left behind”, she added.

Highlighting Pakistan’s Vision 2025 as the blue print for Pakistan’s own long-term, sustainable and inclusive development, Dr. Ali said, the vision prioritizes gender equality and women development, through institutional restructuring; policies and fiscal reforms; women employment in public sector; and women’s political participation.

“One of the biggest priorities of the Government is to reduce the feminization of poverty, especially among rural populations”, she added.

Recounting various government schemes Dr. Ali mentioned the Benazir Income Support Programme as the largest social safety-net programme in Pakistan, aimed at empowering some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable rural women, benefiting approximately 5 million.

She also told the UN about government schemes specifically tailored at providing women with opportunity to harness loans in order to participate in promotion and development of the agricultural sector.

“Special Schemes like ‘Women Employment Scheme’ has been introduced for rural women across the country”, she said, and added, “Rural women’s access to financial services is being expanded as part of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. In addition, over fifty institutions in Pakistan are providing credit and micro-credit facilities to rural women entrepreneurs”.

Dr. Ali said, women across the world continue to face multiple and intersecting inequalities. For rural women, these challenges are accentuated by entrenched gender-based stereotypes and discriminatory practices, denying them equitable access to opportunities, resources, and means of advancement.

Stressing that political and economic empowerment and the quest for gender equality are inextricably intertwined, Dr. Ali said, rural women are suffering from a double disadvantage; they face inequality and oppression as women, and then poverty reinforces and exacerbates this exploitation.

She cited her own example, representing a predominantly conservative rural constituency, where she defeated a male opponent, a senior and prominent public figure, by a huge margin. “My experience has been varied. I chose to listen and learn from my constituents, especially poor rural women”, she said.

She concluded by expressing Pakistan’s commitment to earnestly work with members of the international community, for a future where ‘no one is left behind’ in the pursuit of self-fulfillment and prosperity.