ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, Senator Dr Sania Nishtar said on Tuesday that the government unveiled the “50 per cent Plus perks” policy for women in the framework of Ehsaas to empower them.
On the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly, she spoke at a high-level event on “uplifting women and girls through access to education, financial inclusion, and economic empowerment” hosted by Pakistan in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).
“Our administration declared the “50 percent plus benefits” policy for women in the context of Ehsaas,” Dr Sania added, giving a picture of where the Pakistani government stands on the women and girls agenda. Under this framework, each policy or programme must provide at least half of the benefits to women; as a consequence, women get more than three-quarters of Ehsaas’ total benefits are dedicated to women and girls, she said.
“What has enabled us to make progress on gender equality and the practise of using disaggregated data for corrective action in Ehsaas is our rigorous methodology of tracking indicators and the culture of delivery,” she said.
“Women account for over half of our country’s population, and as a government, we are acutely aware that their contributions, talent, skills, capacities, and leadership acumen stand to contribute considerably to national development,” the PM’s assistant added. Gender-related metrics like as political representation have improved, with women now accounting for 25% of our parliament.”
Women and girls, Dr Sania said, are at the heart of everything we do. “Ehsaas cash transfer programme, Kafaalat puts cash exclusively in the hands of 8 million women.”
They receive cashouts and are given savings wallets and will soon transition to full bank accounts as per the Ehsaas ‘One Woman One Account Policy’ so that they can reap maximum benefits of financial inclusion. Also, Ehsaas’ conditional cash transfer programmes providing stipends for health, education and nutrition are deliberately weighted in favour of girls to address the disparity in access to such services.
Elaborating further on the women-centric work of Ehsaas, Dr Sania added: “To incentivise girls’ education, Ehsaas grants a higher stipend for girls through its education conditional cash transfer programme through higher secondary school levels; the programme has nationwide outreach and children of all Ehsaas families are eligible. We have also introduced a ‘graduation stipend’ for girls completing the 5th grade to address the issue of girls dropping out of school.”
The event also focused on potential areas where financial inclusion could contribute to women’s economic empowerment such as laws and social norms, digital connectivity and access, education and skills, and social safety networks.
Earlier, Ambassador Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN in New York formally opened the event. Ambassador Munir Akram, in his opening remarks, highlighted that gender equality is central to the well-being of societies and communities. He referred to the Covid-induced poverty that has impacted women and girls both as frontline workers as well at home.
He emphasised that to build back better, women and girls must be given the same opportunities to grow, learn and contribute to the workforce as their male counterparts.
The event aimed at emphasising countries everywhere to thrive and build back better, women and girls must be given the same opportunities to grow, learn and contribute to the workforce as their male counterparts.
At the event, Dr Sania was joined by Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary General, DESA; Mirjana Spolijaric Egger, ASG and UNDP Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia; Anita, Deputy Executive Director, UN-Women. Other eminent speakers on the panel were – Pascale A Allotey, Director, United Nations University, International Institute for Global Health; Maki Hayashikawa, Director of the Division of Education 2030 Support and Coordination at UNESCO; Anita Zaidi, President of the Gate’s Foundation Gender Equality Division; and Sharmeela Rasool, Country Representative UN-Women Pakistan.
Ameena Zia, Adj Professor of Political Science at Virginia Technical University and UN NGO Representative – ECOSOC moderated the panel discussion.