National Gender Policy Framework: A Step Forward for Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan

My participation on behalf of Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), Rawalpindi, in a National Gender Policy Framework (NGPF) High Level Consultative Workshop at the Planning Commission (PC) of Pakistan motivated me to identify this important subject. Gender issues and the empowerment of women in the workplace have remained a challenge throughout history, from underdeveloped countries to the developed world. However, efforts are being made especially in the developing world where gender has not yet been substantially addressed. On 08 March 2022, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Pakistan presented its first ever promising policy document on gender as NGPF. Pakistan has performed poorly in the context of international gender equality development.

In the Gender Inequality Index, Pakistan is ranked 133 out of 160 countries. On a ranking of the Global Gender Gap Index, it is 151st out of 153 countries. Pakistan was in last place in the rankings for advancing female leadership in government, the corporate sector and entrepreneurship. Additionally, the Sustainable Social Development Organization identified that 27,273 cases of violence against women were reported in 2021 alone. the gender issue by introducing comprehensive strategies and policy interventions.

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Better understand the subject

This creation of the NGPF document is an important step in addressing gender challenges in society. Nearly 50% of Pakistan’s population are women and the effective contributions of this segment of society can put the country on the path to development. It is reported that the value of national labor in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Pakistan can be increased by 27% by increasing the participation of women in the labor force to 50%, while the complete reduction of gender gap can increase national GDP by 30%, or $85.2 billion. Therefore, the establishment of the NGPF is the need of the hour.

The NGPF document focuses primarily on six areas: governance; equality and quality in education, employment and economic empowerment; political participation and meaningful engagement; safety and security, health and welfare. Multiple measures and policy interventions are suggested for each of these areas to achieve effective results.

Many interesting policy actions are proposed, such as institutional transformation of gender equality, promotion of equitable access to work opportunities, creation of pathways and promotion of women’s leadership, and protection and promotion of women’s mental health, among others. These policy measures are certainly curial to mainstream gender, narrow the gender gap and provide a working environment conducive to sustainable growth of society. However, it is essential to understand to what extent the actual public policy process is followed for the production of the NGPF?.

It was affirmed that the document is the product of an extensive consultation process involving all relevant stakeholders and that it is based on statistical data and that policy measures are established according to the realities on the ground. It is important to note that policy implementation remains a major problem in Pakistan where many policies are unable to produce the expected results.

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Effective implementation mechanisms and tools are essential for the successful implementation of any policy

Knowing the history of the country, Pakistan was able to establish sound public policies but actually failed to implement these policies with their true spirit. It is therefore desirable to have in hand the policy implementation scenarios and the expected implementation challenges and their envisaged solutions. It is essential to establish sophisticated monitoring and evaluation frameworks to regularly assess the progress of NGPF implementation.

He also indicated that quarterly review meetings will be scheduled to observe the progress of the implementation. Further, he also affirmed that the PC is online to establish a new cell/section which will be dedicated to the implementation of the NGPF. For effective implementation of any public policy, it is necessary that there is regular communication between stakeholders, in particular there should be strong coordination between implementing institutions.

The NGPF document should be massively distributed among institutions across the country so that the political message of the document can be reached by all. It is of the utmost importance to develop policy statements by the relevant ministry and they should be shared and disseminated as a matter of priority. Successful implementation cannot be expected unless the contents of the policy documents are not available to everyone, but they must be a full understanding of the document.

One of the main reasons for implementation failure is the challenge of the acceptability of policy measures in the local community. The PC should have to involve the local community extensively and policy interventions should be proposed taking into account local concerns and their desires. It is therefore suggested that there must be extreme level advocacy campaigns on the NGPF by engaging the media and civil society organizations (CSOs).

CSOs are key to aligning coordination between civil society and policy-making bodies. These CSOs have technical knowledge being closer to the local society and they know well the real gender challenges, so they can act as representatives of civil society in the policy-making process. For this, the government should encourage CSOs to organize various seminars and workshops on gender issues across the country to provide evidence of the real problems so that the required policy interventions can be designed accordingly.

Academia has a crucial role not only in point out the problem, but propose a policy interventions based on scientific evidence. In this regard, universities, especially universities for women, should be seen as major players in the policy debate on gender challenges in Pakistan. Several universities offer gender studies programs, but there is a need to align these programs within the context of the NGPF. The FJWU is already participating in the consultation process and is fully committed to playing its part in every part of the implementation phase of the NGPF. In addition, the Higher Education Commission should devote special funding opportunities to research projects on gender and policy issues to ensure a science-policy interface for gender policies and implementation frameworks. in Pakistan.

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The NGPF is a commendable step taken by the government to address a major problem in society. This is a striking policy initiative aimed at reducing gender gaps and ensuring meaningful representation of women in public policy-making and decision-making process, and providing a conducive work environment for all for a sustainable future. However, time will determine the effectiveness of NGPF implementation.

The author works as an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration, Fatima Jinnah Women’s University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He was Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Program in Public Administration and Governance, and Media Coordinator at Haripur University, Pakistan. He obtained a doctorate in public administration and government from the Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil. He is a former visiting scholar at the University of Delaware, USA. He can be reached at [email protected]

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

Mara R. Wilmoth