ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar on Tuesday attended the Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting which focused discussions on a woman-focused recovery for a more inclusive post-COVID 19 future.
Alongside Dr. Sania, the panel included Joseph Sveglich, Economist, Economics and Research Department, Asian Development Bank; Wendy Teleki Head We-Fi Secretariat, World Bank Group; Deniz Harut, Executive Director, Sustainable Finance, Standard Chartered Bank; and Joni Simpson Senior Specialist Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination, International Labor Organisation (ILO). The session was moderated by Sharanjit Leyl, BBC.
The panel discussed that COVID-19 has wiped away a disproportionately higher share of women’s jobs, widening gender gaps in labor market access and increasing women’s vulnerability to poverty.
International experts and policymakers emphasized that Asia Pacific economies should address inequalities in women’s work to ensure a more inclusive ‘new normal’.
Participants discussed how to position gender equality more saliently post- COVID -19.
Dr. Sania Nishtar stressed on the need for gender-related targets in programs, she highlighted the example of Ehsaas where there are specific time-bound outcome-based targets for gender mainstreaming evidenced in the Ehsaas 50% Plus Benefits (for women policy).
“The world cannot afford to disregard what women—50% of its population—can bring to the table in terms of talents, skills, productive potential, and leadership acumen,” Dr. Sania Nishtar said.
“In terms of social outcomes—we know that education and empowerment of women has a direct correlation with improved health education and social outcomes in a household. Post-COVID-19 there is a massive mending and rebuilding job to be done and women just have to be a major part of this”, she further added.
Dr. Sania Nishtar then stressed on the importance of data coupled with accountability for action. She emphasized that there is no reason not to mandate data disaggregation by gender across all information sources and unearth stories that averages tend to hide.
“It is important to give greater weightage to gender-related variables in the composite measures, which are the basis of league tables to monitor progress. We need to reimagine the role of women in the workforce of a future system, which is being rapidly transformed by technology, digitization and burgeoning innovations. With billions of people connected with mobile devices, the combination of processing power, knowledge access, and data portability can transform sector,” she added.
Ehsaas is a pioneering anti-poverty programme in the country that aims to change this reality and ensure that all women no matter their background have the opportunity to succeed.
There are currently over 250 policies under the umbrella of Ehsaas, many of which are designed to specifically target women.
At its core, Ehsaas aims to lift the 7 million poorest women in Pakistan out of poverty and help them to achieve their potential. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ehsaas delivered 54% emergency cash to deserving women.
Through Ehsaas Interest-Free Loans programme in the National Poverty Graduation Initiative, 45% women beneficiaries have been provided opportunities to build microenterprises. With 50% scholarships reserved for girls, Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship programme provides 200,000 need and merit-based scholarships over 4 years.
In Ehsaas primary education, and health and nutrition programmes, conditional cash transfers are being made to mothers and these include a higher stipend amount for girls as compared to boys.
The annual meeting brought together policymakers, representatives from the private sector, and development partners to discuss ambitious approaches to build back better through women’s entrepreneurship, financial inclusion, and decent jobs for women.
The panel appreciated the women-specific Ehsaas 50% Plus Benefits policy of Ehsaas that is fully skewed towards women.