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Pakistan

Equal opportunity to women benefits all

Annette Dixon's picture


Celebrating the women of South Asia

As we today mark UN Women’s Day, it is worth considering what the inequality between men and women costs South Asian countries and what can be done about it. 

One big cost of inequality is that South Asian economies do not reach their full potential. In Bangladesh, for example, women account for most unpaid work, and are overrepresented in the low productivity informal sector and among the poor. Raising the female employment rate could contribute significantly to Bangladesh achieving its goal in 2021 of becoming a middle-income country. Yet even middle-income countries in South Asia could prosper from more women in the workforce. Women represent only 34 percent of the employed population in Sri Lanka, a figure that has remained static for decades.

Economic opportunities for women matter not just because they can bring money home. They also matter because opportunities empower women more broadly in society and this can have a positive impact on others.  If women have a bigger say in how household money is spent this can ensure more of it is spent on children.

Improvements in the education and health of women have been linked to better outcomes for their children in countries as varied as Nepal and Pakistan. In India, giving power to women at the local government level led to increases in public services, such as water and sanitation.

Just as the costs of inequality are huge, so is the challenge in overcoming it. The gaps in opportunity between men and women are the product of pervasive and stubborn social norms that privilege men’s and boys’ access to opportunities and resources over women’s and girls’.

 

Can poverty be defined by shelter?

Sangmoo Kim's picture
 
Slums in Dhaka
Small shacks with bamboo frames & corrugated tin roofs - where 40 percent of the city’s population live.
Sangmoo Kim/World Bank

In Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, you cannot miss the slum neighborhoods. More than 5,000 slum communities, accounting for 40 percent of the population, are spread across the city, often located right next to luxury penthouses, hotels, and high-rise office buildings. Most slum dwellers are limited to low-quality housing in precarious areas, often prone to flooding. The limited access to adequate shelter is an important factor that – according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2015 livability rankings – makes Dhaka one of the least livable cities in the world. These communities are among the most neglected in the city in terms of urban policy, planning, and development, although the people who live in the slums make up the lion’s share of the work force, which drives the city’s economy, contributing significantly to the garment and leather industries, construction, waste management, and many other informal sectors.
                                                                         
Living in slums puts enormous social, economic, and financial burdens on households, and it can lead to intergenerational poverty. Many argue that slum dwellers are caught in a poverty trap—that living in slums makes it harder for households to escape poverty. Several slum-related factors contribute to the perpetuation of poverty, including poor health outcomes; an inability to access finance or leverage property assets; and lack of access to basic services. The existence of slums is a symptom of a shortage of affordable housing, the provision of which can be viewed as a valuable goal in its own right and as a critical ingredient in addressing the broader challenges of poverty.

Aqeela Asifi: Refugee and tireless champion for education

Yann Doignon's picture
Aqeela Asifi is the 2015 winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award, recognised for her indefatigable efforts to help girl refugees access education.
Aqeela Asifi. Credit: UNHCR

Aqeela Asifi is the 2015 winner of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award, recognized for her indefatigable efforts to educate Afghan girl refugees. She was a guest panelist at the "Managing Displaced Populations—Lessons From Pakistan" discussion with President Jim Yong Kim during his two day visit to Pakistan last week.



Her car broke down during her long journey to Islamabad from Kot Chandana, a refugee village where she lives in the south-eastern Punjab province of Pakistan.

Tired she may be, and notwithstanding a panel discussion on the Afghan refugee situation still ahead of her, she has a story to tell and nothing will stop her.

Her quiet, almost shy demeanor belies her fierce determination: Aqeela Asifi is a refugee, teacher, champion of girl’s education, an inspiration to thousands of her students, and a 2015 winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award.

Her story is one of resilience against all odds.

Like hundreds of thousands of other Afghans, she was forced to flee Afghanistan in 1992 when civil war broke out in the country. She left everything behind: her family, her house, and a job as a teacher in Kabul, and ended up in Kot Chandana, a village in Pakistan, which then hosted nearly 180,000 other refugees. By the early 1990s, more than three million exiled Afghans had crossed Pakistan’s border, putting additional pressure on the country’s infrastructure and social services, notably health services and schools. What Asifi witnessed was a complete lack of learning facilities and opportunities for girls in her newfound community. “When I started living at a refugee camp I saw girls’ education was the most neglected area,” she says. “Girls were not even aware of education and its importance in their lives. They didn’t know anything about books, pencils, and it was then when I realized that this community needed my help.”
 
 

How to become a digital innovator in Pakistan

Anna O'Donnell's picture
Students Learning at the Earn through Freelancing Training
Students learning at the Earn through Freelancing training. Credit: Empower Pakistan/World Bank
It is possible today to be sitting almost anywhere in the world and -- provided you have access to a computer and the internet -- you can be working on international projects, learning through online courses, or collaborating with other young people worldwide.

These kinds of connected communities can be a great short-term solution to some of Pakistan’s challenges in creating jobs.  

Pakistan is home to a large youth population, with nearly 100 million youth under the age of 24. Creating more and better jobs for this new generation will be a major development challenge. According to Pakistan’s own estimates, the country will need to grow at around 7 percent a year to absorb all these young people into productive economic participation. But constraints on energy supply as well as budget and capacity constraints on government are going to make this challenging in the short term.

What we have seen working in Pakistan over the last few years is that there is an emerging cultural shift that is becoming more accepting of self-employment and entrepreneurship as legitimate employment pathways for young people.

Given the constraints of the domestic economy to absorb all these young people, many of the employment opportunities will come through the establishment of new businesses. And the tech industry in Pakistan has shown a steady and healthy growth rate in recent years, with the potential both to drive growth through the development of new business models, startups and innovation.

One of the major issues we have seen working here is that many young people are curious about how the internet and technology can offer employment, but are not sure where to start.

Want a digital career? Here’s how to get started:

For those interested in learning some skills and linking to work through international marketplaces—also called freelancing—there are resources available to help with training.
Many of the top freelancing sites offer introductory materials to learn basic freelancing, such as Upwork and SamaSchool. Independent online learning sites also offer courses and certificates, most notably Coursera.

Reaching every child in every home in conflict-ridden FATA

Shakeel Qadir Khan's picture
Child receiving polio vaccine
A child receives an orally administered polio vaccine. Polio immunications have increased tremendously in FATA. 

The Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is a semi-autonomous tribal region in northwestern Pakistan, bordering Pakistan's provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and Afghanistan to the west and north. It consists of seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions and are directly managed by Pakistan's Federal Government. 

FATA has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The region has seen conflict and instability for almost three decades. Since the start of the 21st century, it has suffered more with escalation in violence, forced isolation of its population by extremist groups and instability. But things have begun to change. The security operation in North Waziristan Agency has been followed by large scale programmatic/development interventions by civil authorities. This has resulted in decrease in violence, initiation of the return process for the internally displaced populations and the restoration of the writ of law.

Local elections in Pakistan: A chance to improve public services

Ming Zhang's picture
Discussing public services in Pakistan
Discussing public services in Pakistan. Credit: GSP/MDTF/2013
I arrived in Pakistan right after the third round of local elections held in most provinces on December 5.

​This was the first local election in 10 years in most places of the country. Voters elected council members of three tiers of local governments: district, urban councils, and union council/ward.

How will these elections impact the lives of average citizens?

International experiences have shown that the main benefit of elected local bodies is their closeness to citizens, which allows them to be much more responsive – although with sustained hard work -- to improving local services such as waste, water, sewerage and transportation.

In a report about managing spatial transformation in South Asia launched at the 3rd Pakistan Urban Forum, we highlighted that passing reforms aimed at revitalizing urban governance is critical to make South Asia cities more livable and prosperous (see chapter 3 of the report).

To that end, we identified three closely related "deficits" -- empowerment, resource, and accountability -- which, if tackled properly, could lead to improved local urban governance.

The recent local elections in Pakistan are important steps toward reducing these three deficits. The new local government laws, which were enacted in most provinces in 2013, started to re-empower local governments after the expiration of the earlier 2001 Local Government Act.
 

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