Canada continues its 30 year legacy of fostering women’s rights organizations in Pakistan

News release

May 23, 2019

Islamabad: The High Commission of Canada is proud to launch the five-year Women’s Voice and Leadership Pakistan Initiative in Pakistanwith a discussion and media conference in Islamabad on May 23.

The Women’s Voice and Leadership Pakistan Initiative will strengthen women’s rights organizations to help improve policy, legislation, services and systems and impact on social belief and practices that promote gender equality.  With a CDN $8 million budget, the project is a central component of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.  It builds on a strong legacy of 30 years’ cooperation of Canada working alongside Pakistani women’s rights organizations to advance women’s and girls’ rights.

The roundtable was hosted by the High Commissioner of Canada, Ms. Wendy Gilmour, and the implementing partner for the project, Oxfam Pakistan, which was represented by its Country Director, Mohammad Qazilbash. 

Canada is honoured that the Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, agreed to chair the roundtable and that the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar, took part as the Guest of Honour.

According to Dr. Nishtar, “Advancement of Women’s rights and Women empowerment are crucial for the reduction of poverty in Pakistan.  They are key to the realization of the Prime Minister’s commitments, through the Poverty Alleviation Programme – ‘Ehsaas’ -  to reduce inequality, invest in people and lift the lagging districts”.

Ms. Khawar Mumtaz reminded participants that “Important milestones have been achieved in Pakistan over the past years, in terms of legislation to recognize the rights of women and girls.  Progress on the Government’s agenda for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now requires the full implementation of these legislations. Women’s Rights Organizations have a key role to play in helping the Government build awareness and support for their full implementation, monitoring and evaluation.”

Pakistan’s Women’s Rights Organizations (WROs) have a rich history of building awareness, and support among the public and law makers for legislative reform to address crimes such as rape, sexual harassment, acid throwing and “honor killings”.  The objective of Women’s Voice and Leadership Pakistan is to better equip existing WROs to work collectively towards further change so that women and girls can fully realize their rights, and reach their full potential in society. Areas where support will be provided include enhanced literacy, preventing early and forced marriages, improved nutrition, reduced maternal mortality rate, combatting gender-based violence and fostering women’s economic and political participation.

Recognizing the important role that national and provincial commissions on the status of women play in advancing gender equality across Pakistan and at various levels, Women’s Voice and Leadership Pakistan Initiative will ensure both inclusiveness and respect for diversity.

High Commissioner Wendy Gilmour said, “Canada is thrilled to launch this flagship initiative building on our significant engagement over decades in support of women’s rights in Pakistan.”

“Oxfam in Pakistan is committed to a women’s rights agenda that includes supporting the work and voices of WROs” said Mohammad Qazilbash at the round-table. “They are key to catalyzing change towards greater progress for women in Pakistan.  They need opportunities to grow their capacity to manage and sustain themselves. They know their context and constituencies best and, as such, are best placed with the Government to determine and deliver the programs and advocacy that address the challenges facing women in Pakistan. ”

Notes to Editors:

  • In 2018, according to the World Economic Forum, Pakistan ranks 148 out of 149 countries in the WEF Global Gender Gap Index.
  • Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world with a negative sex ratio with 100 women to 108.5 men.
  • Evidence shows that strong women’s rights and feminist organization and movements are fundamental to catalyzing change towards gender equality.
  • Canada announced the Women’s Voice and Leadership Program as part of its Feminist International Assistance Policy in June 2017 to respond to the needs of local women’s organizations in developing countries.


For further information, media representatives may contact:
Amina Sarwar
Public Affairs Officer, High Commission of Canada