FAO in Pakistan pledges greater support to realizing women’s rights

FAO sub-offices in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh provinces also celebrated the day with the staff taking a gender equality pledge and celebrating the day committing to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women & girls.

Out of Pakistan’s 132 million rural population, 65 million are women. Sixty two percent of women work in the fields while only 19 percent women are in paid employment. Sixty percent work as unpaid workers on family farms and enterprises. The unpaid work is valued at 2.6 percent of the national GDP. Only one percent of women are entrepreneurs in Pakistan; 20 percent of rural women are classified as own-account workers – 14 percent in agriculture and 6 percent in non-agri work.

To reflect on these disparities that exist in multiple forms in all spheres of the public space and to realize the importance of women’s role (and in particular rural women’s role) in society, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations together with partners UN Women Pakistan and International Labour Organization (ILO,) marked the International Women’s Day at the FAO representation office in Islamabad. The role of rural women in agriculture sector in Pakistan, the systems set in place that support them, and the policy work that needs to be done to ensure implementation of policies and reforms was highlighted through two panel discussions in which development sector partners, NGO representatives, and rural women discussed the existing policies and frameworks to safeguards the rights of rural working women.

Women’s increased access to land through inheritance or purchase, and eliminating discriminatory practices and customs that prevent rural women from acquiring land are crucial to empower rural women of Pakistan and bridge the gender gap. Experts suggest implementing the Women’s Property Act 2019 to make sure rural women are not left behind.

Country Representative FAO Mina Dowlatchahi, while moderating the panel, said, “Seventy five percent of the manual labour in agriculture is done by women, yet they are extremely underrepresented. It is pertinent to have a dialogue on how women and youth can be included in policy related to agriculture sector employment, which is important for the design of the government structure.”

From the indigenous Kailash community of northern Pakistan, to the desert communities of Tharparkar district in Southern Sindh province and to the local women farmers of Orakzai agency of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, all marked International Women’s Day for the first time. Local communities, women and men farmers, development partners, government representatives in all provinces came together to raise awareness, call for equality and celebrate actions that have led to creating gender equality in their communities.

FAO sub-offices in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh provinces also celebrated the day with staff by taking a gender equality pledge and committing to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. The representative office in Islamabad participated in various events including at an event at the Arid Agriculture University organized by ICIMOD which aimed to discuss the possible innovative strategies for improving the socio-economic status of indigenous women and women in mountain areas of Pakistan. At the City School, an education institute in Islamabad, the FAO representative in Pakistan was invited to participate in a panel discussion which covered issues pertaining to young women in universities, the professional world and at home, including mental health.

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” is aligned with the UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality.