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National Gender Policy Framework: A step forward for women empowerment in Pakistan

The NGPF document is mainly focusing on six areas: governance; equality and quality in education, employment and economic empowerment; political participation and meaningful engagement; safety and security, and, health and well-being. Multiple policy measures and interventions are suggested for each of these areas so that effective results can be achieved.  

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My participation on the behalf of Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), Rawalpindi in a high-level consultative workshop on the National Gender Policy Framework (NGPF) at the Planning Commission (PC) Pakistan motivated me to pin down this important topic.  Gender issues and empowering women at the workplace remained a challenge throughout history from under-developed countries to the developed world. However, efforts are being placed especially in the developing world where gender issue is yet to be substantially resolved. On March 08, 2022, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Pakistan has introduced its first-ever promising policy document on gender as the NGPF. Pakistan has poorly performed in the context of international gender development.

In Gender Inequality Index, Pakistan is ranked at 133 out of 160 countries. On a ranking of the Global Gender Gap Index, it is at 151 out of 153 countries. Pakistan stood last in the ranking for the advancement of female leadership in government, corporation sector, and entrepreneurship. Moreover, Sustainable Social Development Organization identified that 27,273 cases of violence against women have been reported just in 2021 alone. In viewing the weak statistics, the establishment of the NGPF was imperative so as to address gender issue by introducing comprehensive strategies and policy interventions.

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Understanding the matter better

This creation of the NGPF document is an important step to address gender challenges in society. Almost 50 percent of Pakistan’s population is women and effective contributions of this segment of the society can put the country on the avenues of development.  It is reported that the national labor value in Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can be increased by 27 percent by increasing female labor force participation to 50 percent while completely closing the gender gap can boost the national GDP by 30 percent i.e. USD 85.2 billion. Therefore, the establishment of the NGPF is the need of the hour.

The NGPF document is mainly focusing on six areas: governance; equality and quality in education, employment and economic empowerment; political participation and meaningful engagement; safety and security and, health and well-being. Multiple policy measures and interventions are suggested for each of these areas so that effective results can be achieved.

Many interesting policy actions are proposed such as gender-equal institutional transformation, promoting equitable access to work opportunities, creating avenues for and advancing female leadership, and protecting and promoting female mental health among others. These policy measures are certainly curial for mainstreaming gender, limiting gender gap and providing conductive working environment for sustainable growth of the society. However, it is essential to understand at what extent the actual public policy process is followed for production of the NGPF?.

It has been claimed that the document is a product of an extensive consultation process through involves all the relevant stakeholders and it is based on statistical data and policy measures are established based on ground realities. It is important to note that policy implementation remains a major issue in Pakistan where many policies are unable to produce the expected results.

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

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

It has also stated that quarterly evaluation meetings will be scheduled to observe the implementation progress. Moreover, it has also claimed that PC is in line to establish a new cell/section which will be dedicated for the implementation of the NGPF.  For effective implementation of any public policy, it is needed that there must be a regular communication among the stakeholders, especially there should be a strong coordination among the implementing institutions.

The NGPF document must massively be distributed among the institutions across the country so that the policy message of the document can be reached to everyone. It is of the extreme importance to devise policy statements by the relevant ministry and it must be shared and disseminated on a priority basis. One cannot expect successful implementation unless the contents of policy documents are not reached to everyone but they must be a complete understanding of the document.

One of the major reasons for unsuccessful implementation is the acceptability challenges of policy measures in local community. The PC must have to engage the local community extensively and policy interventions must be proposed in viewing the local concerns and their desires. It is therefore suggested that there must be extreme level promotion campaigns about the NGPF through engaging media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The CSOs are key to aligning coordination between the civil society and policy making bodies. These CSOs have technical knowledge being closer to local society and they are quite familiar with the actual gender challenges hence they can act as a representative of civil society in the policymaking process. For this, the government must encourage the CSOs to arrange various seminars and workshops on gender issues across the country in order to bring evidence of actual issues so that required policy interventions can be devised accordingly.

Academia has a crucial role not only in highlighting the issue but to propose policy interventions based on scientific pieces of evidence. In this regard, universities especially women’s universities must be taken as major actors in the policy debate on gender challenges in Pakistan. There are various universities offering programs on gender studies but there is need to align these programs in the context of the NGPF. The FJWU is already participating in the consultation process and is fully committed to playing its role in every part of the implementation phase of the NGPF. Moreover, higher education commission must dedicate special funding opportunities of research projects on gender and policy issues so as 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 issue in the society. It is a striking policy initiative to lessen the gender gaps and ensure meaningful representations of women in public policy making and decision-making process, and provision of conducive working environment to all for a sustainable future.  However, time will define how effectively implementation of the NGPF will take place.

 

The writer is working as Assistant Professor, at Department of Public Administration, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He has served as Assistant Professor and Coordinator for Graduate Program in Public Administration & Governance, and Media Coordinator at the University of Haripur, Pakistan. He earned PhD in Public Administration and Government from Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil. He is a former Visiting Fellow at the University of Delaware, USA.  He can be reached at mumtaz86@hotmail.com.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.