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 Benefits” policy for women in the framework of Ehsaas to empower them.
She was addressing 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), on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly.
Giving a snapshot of where the government of Pakistan is on the women and girls agenda, Dr Sania said: “Our government pronounced the “50% plus benefits” policy for women in the framework of Ehsaas”. Any policy and programme under this framework must accrue at least half of the benefits to women; as a result, more than three-quarters of Ehsaas’ entire programme’s benefits are dedicated to women and girls, she said.
She continued: “In Ehsaas, our rigorous mechanism of tracking indicators and the culture of delivery is what has enabled us to make progress on gender equality and the practice of using disaggregated data for remedial action.”
The PM’s aide also said, “Women contribute nearly half the population of our country and as a government, we are deeply conscious that their contributions, their talent, skills, capabilities and leadership acumen stand to contribute significantly towards national development. There has been progress in gender-related indicators such as political representation where women have 25% representation in 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.”
Also read: ‘Ehsaas Saving Wallets’ to empower 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.