ISLAMABAD: Being the social and economic foundations of rural communities, rural women play a key role in supporting their households in achieving food and nutrition security, generating income, and improving rural livelihoods and overall well-being.

In a launch event in Islamabad today, UN Women Pakistan, in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), supported by Canadian High Commission, shared the report ‘Status of Rural Women in Pakistan’ with the audience, comprising of ambassadors, government officials, representatives of rural development organizations, youth and civil society organizations.

The contributions of rural women to agriculture, rural enterprises, fuel and food production, local and global economies are remarkable, yet they struggle to find their voices.  A much-needed research on the status of rural women highlighted the challenges and recommendations in areas of education, labour force participation, agricultural subsistence and climate changes, violence against women and girls, paid and unpaid employment.

According to the report, women in the agriculture sector are primarily concentrated in dairy and livestock related work. The returns to labour are low: only 40% are in paid employment and 60% work as unpaid workers on family farms and enterprises. Their unpaid work is valued (using comparative median wages) at PKR 683 billion, is 57% of all work done by women, and is 2.6% of GDP of the country.

Jamshed M. Kazi, Country Representative of UN Women Pakistan, in his opening remarks, said, “This event is not just a report launch with lots of facts and figures about rural ’s women’s health, education, social protection, and economic participation. This morning is also about celebration and recognition of the phenomenal contribution that rural women make not just economically, but also politically, socially and culturally in their communities.”

The chief guest, Ms. Roshan Bharucha, Federal Minister of Human Rights, said, “I, as Minister of Human Rights, feel that promotion and protection of women is very important.  Rural Women play important role in agriculture working in the field and livestock.  They play significant role in the economy of our country.  They should be encouraged by give them training and micro credit which would lead them towards self employment which is the need of the day.”

Canadian High Commissioner, Perry Calderwood, showed his interest in promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls through concerted efforts by all partners. “Canada is committed to promoting gender equality. Advancing women empowerment is at the heart of our development assistance.  It is an objective, but also key to achieving our overall goal of reducing poverty and advancing sustainable development. This is the central message of our Feminist International Assistance Policy.”

“Women are the backbone of Pakistan’s rural economy; however, they remain invisible — uncounted and inadequately compensated and their reproductive and care work taken for granted. The Rural Women Status Report highlights the multidimensional nature of rural women’s work, their vulnerability and identifies the drivers of change that could transform their lives along with that of society and country”, Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women, said while adding to considerations shared by the fellow speakers.

Yasmin Ziadi, Director, Center of Gender and Policy Studies (CGaPS), presented the research findings to the audience, pressing the need to introduce and implement gender responsive policies.

A panel discussion on presenting the strategies to improve the status of rural women was also conducted. The eminent panelists – Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women; Ms. Shaheen Khan, Advisor Learning & Innovation, Higher Education Commission; Dr. Asma Haider, Member Social Sector, Ministry of Planning Development and Reform; Ms. Mina Dowlatchahi, Representative, FAO; Dr Muhammed Azeem Khan, Center for Rural Economy; Ms. Fajer Rabia, Executive Director, Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education – discussed the key findings, touched upon the challenges and shared their recommendations to achieve improved statistics in coming future with regards to the status of women.

In his closing remarks, Neil Buhne, UN Resident Coordinator, said, “Upholding gender equality and dignity – cross-cutting elements of Agenda 2030 and the explicit aims of SDGs 5 and 10 – requires concerted, well-coordinated action by all duty bearers, institutions and communities. Building on the progress Pakistan has made to date, we will leverage the UN’s experience, resources and expertise to bolster government efforts to promote gender equality and dignity.”