Implementation of women empowerment projects at risk

It remains to be seen whether politics will impact the initiatives taken by PTI

Asif Mehmood June 22, 2022
The speakers highlighted injustices women face in their everyday life due to structural disadvantages. PHOTO: EXPRESS


With every change in government comes uncertainty for programmes started by the outgoing government; uncertainty which trickles down to the beneficiaries of the programmes as they watch the politicians argue over what initiatives merit a continuation and which ones are a burden on the national kitty.

The murgi palo and kata palo programmes meant to empower women, which generated social media hysteria and memes on former prime minister Imran Khan’s expense, did not seem like they would see the light of day. However, 55-year-old, Ghulam Fatima, who hails from a village on the outskirts of Lahore has been benefiting under the scheme since 2019.

“This initiative provided a poor widow like me a monthly income when I had no other hope. So I really hope it will not be shut down,” said Fatima.

Although allocations have been made for the programmes in the new budget, it remains to be seen whether the implementation will continue as it was under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

If the history of past women empowerment initiatives is an indicator, the future of the livestock schemes might be in a conundrum. For instance, when the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) was in power in Punjab from 2013 to 2018, it started various schemes for women empowerment and protection, most notable of which were the Women on Wheels initiatives and establishment of violence against women centres.

Women on Wheels, a programme meant to increase the mobility of women in Punjab by providing them scooters came to a screeching halt when the PTI came to power in the province.

However, the PTI’s programmes can draw hope of survival from the fact that the PML-N initiative of establishing centres for women actually improved under the PTI, as per Fatima Chadhar, who is the Chairperson of Punjab Women Protection Authority. “For the first time the PTI government made this authority functional in order to prevent incidents of violence against women. Prior to 2018, the then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif was the chairman of this authority but the authority existed only on paper.” Chadhar is hopeful that the PML-N will continue to improve the centres as it was an initiative they started in the first place. Salman Sufi, Head of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms Initiative, who was behind Women on Wheels and Women’s Centres in Punjab, reassured that all programs would continue. “Our projects are being reactivated and will be implemented all over Pakistan now. In the first phase, these projects will be extended in Punjab and Sindh,” Sufi informed.

However, he did not shed light on whether the PTI’s initiatives with regards to women empowerment would continue to operate or not. However, Dr Amna Siddique, a researcher on women empowerment policies, is not hopeful at all for the continuations despite Sufi’s reassurances. “Political governments in Pakistan have been making declarations and claims for women’s empowerment for their own ends, but little has been done in practice,” Dr Siddique told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2022.


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