Islamabad: The PM’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar Wednesday joined a virtual ministerial roundtable as part of an international expert panel to share experiences in ensuring a gender-inclusive response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery measures.
The roundtable discussion, which was hosted by the Executive Director of UN Women Phumzle Mlambo Ngcuka, combined ideas, responses and experiences around the gendered impacts of the pandemic. The panel collectively reiterated that the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to address key challenges to achieving gender equality and build back better in post-COVID-19 times.
The goal of the discussion was to foster cross regional knowledge exchange to realize progress on SDG 5 in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic with a specific focus on women’s leadership and participation in the COVID 19 response and gender inclusive packages.
Speaking on ‘Response and Recovery,’ Dr. Sania outlined details about early disease decline in Pakistan, as well as support for poorest families whose lives were adversely affected by COVID-19. Drawing on the experience of Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme, Dr. Sania said, “Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world; there are 24 million breadwinners who rely on daily wages or are self-employed in the informal economy and life for them virtually came to a standstill with implementation of a lockdown in March. To respond to this challenge, Pakistan created the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme within 10 days of the lockdown to deliver one-time emergency cash grants. An amount of $1.23 billion was allocated to support more than 16.9 million families which cover around 109 million people, this is approximately 50% of the country’s population.”
Elaborating the women-focused agenda of Ehsaas, Dr. Sania stated, “Foundational to Ehsaas is the realization to ensure that the programme is responsive to needs of women, who comprise 49% of total population in Pakistan. The ambition of Ehsaas is to skew critical initiatives towards women, by ensuring that at least 50% of all beneficiaries targeted by the programme across initiatives are women. Therefore, Ehsaas encompasses several social protection and poverty alleviation initiatives targeted towards women, across a plethora of initiatives including interest-free loans (50% women), income programme (60% women), undergraduate scholarships (50%), and Kafaalat (7 million women).”