Empowering women through economic participation in Pakistan

Gender equality is not only a human rights issue, but is also an essential component of sustainable development, social justice, peace, and security.”
Heather Cruden, High Commissioner of Canada to Pakistan

Participants gather for a group photo after the Women’s Economic Empowerment forum.

When women are equal partners in political, economic and social decision making, all of society benefits.

Despite recent gains for women and girls’ rights in Pakistan - including pro-women legislation - social and gender equality remains a challenge. Many women in Pakistan, especially in the rural areas of the country, often cannot access education and jobs due to deep-rooted cultural and institutional constraints.

The High Commission of Canada in Pakistan organized the fifth annual Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum in Islamabad to support gender equality and stimulate sustainable economic growth that includes women.

Gender equality – more than a human rights issue

Given the current economic challenges in Pakistan, there is an urgent need to focus on women’s economic participation, their rights and empowerment.
Heather Cruden, High Commissioner of Canada to Pakistan.

Canada’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, Heather Cruden, provides her remarks at the forum.
Participants listen to the presentations at the Women’s Economic Empowerment forum.

The forum on Women’s Economic Empowerment gathered a wide range of development professionals and partners, and blended practical and theoretical knowledge on the state of women’s economic participation in Pakistan. Diverse experts on gendered economic participation, including rural women themselves, weighed their opinions on how Pakistan can improve women’s economic participation.

The dialogue among discussion groups covered innovative ways of engaging the private sector and the government in support of women’s participation in the economy and moving from policy to implementation.

Canadian contributions to economic empowerment 

Canada’s recent projects for economic empowerment in Pakistan were highlighted during the event:

  • Increased employment opportunities and incomes for over 3,500 rural and marginalized women in Southern Sindh thanks to Canada’s project with NGO CARE International
  • Increased decision making power for women in the dairy sector in Southern Punjab through PLAN International.
  • Kashf Foundation has provided financial training to over 1 million women which has reduced their economic vulnerability, increased their incomes and helped expand their businesses while challenging stereotypes and cultural practices such as early forced marriage.
  • Agriculture and fishery workers, many of whom are women, are now recognized as formal workers in Pakistan thanks to Global Affairs Canada and the International Labour Organization providing technical assistance to launch the Gender Sensitive Labour Inspection System.

Canada hopes that through innovative projects , productive dialogue and joint advocacy efforts at events like the Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum, employment, social and cultural barriers will be broken down and gender equality will be recognized as necessary for genuine social and economic success.