Social norms challenged as women participate in market activities in Pakistan
Jun 2, 2021
Rome, 2 June 2021 – Ownership of small housing units and land plots as well as livestock has become reality for some women in extremely poor rural households in Pakistan, thanks to IFAD co-financed projects. The projects contributed to the social and economic empowerment of women by enhancing their access to resources, assets and services, allowing them to partake in activities that were not seen as women’s domains traditionally. This was one of the findings of the country strategy and programme evaluation (CSPE) that covered the period 2009 – 2020, which senior policy makers from Pakistan, representatives of IFAD’s Asia and the Pacific Division, and the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) discussed earlier today.
“The portfolio had important achievements in women’s social and economic empowerment, in light of the challenging gender context in Pakistan”, stated Dr Indran A. Naidoo, IOE Director, in his opening remarks.
The projects provided livestock, skills training and small housing units to be registered in women’s names. Women also benefitted from interventions such as water supply schemes, which reduced their workload and improved the health and well-being of household members. Social mobilization and the establishment of women’s community organizations enhanced social spaces for women and their participation in decision-making processes at community level.
Organized by IFAD’s IOE, in collaboration with the Economic Affairs Division of the Government of Pakistan and IFAD’s Asia and the Pacific Division, the on-line virtual workshop brought together a variety of participants. These included government representatives at federal and provincial levels, national partner agencies, IFAD staff and international development agencies.
The objective of the event was to discuss the main findings and recommendations of the CSPE, and reflect on strategic priorities for IFAD's next country programme and related opportunities and challenges. Workshop participants recognized a strong poverty focus and the positive impact of IFAD’s interventions on human capital through infrastructure support. Interventions such as drinking water schemes, drainage and sanitation, and link roads contributed to increasing access to basic services and improving health and living conditions for beneficiary communities. The fact that many of these schemes were planned and implemented through community-led approaches further added to their value. In the earlier part of the evaluation period, the portfolio also contributed to strengthening of microfinance service providers, and to knowledge generation and policy issues in the microfinance sector.
“The improved roads resulted in major travel time and cost savings, and had a visible impact on household incomes from reduced wastage of fish catch and perishable crop produce”, Ms Fumiko Nakai, IOE Senior Evaluation Officer, highlighted.
Challenges, however, remain. In a number of projects, implementation arrangements had weak linkages with relevant institutions, as limited attention was paid to fostering connections between the target group and service providers. The CSPE also noted an overreliance on poverty scorecards – based on observable indicators – for geographical and household targeting with inadequate reflection on drivers of poverty and structural constraints, limited promotion and adoption of improved agricultural techniques, and weak alignment of technical and vocational training with market needs and contextual realities.
“The evaluation found inadequate attention to food security and nutrition in programming and monitoring”, Ms. Nakai stated.
Looking forward, workshop participants noted the importance of placing greater emphasis on inclusive market systems development with due attention to climate resilience and natural resource
management. Other recommendations included the need to articulate a strategy to promote innovations and scaling up for greater rural poverty impact; to place more emphasis on strengthening and linking with institutions, policies and systems for greater likelihood of sustainability; and to adopt a more flexible and differentiated approach in targeting and programming.
“The programme needs to reflect more carefully how best to leverage sustainable changes in the local economy around agriculture and food systems that would benefit the rural poor.”, Dr Naidoo noted.
Since 1979, IFAD has approved the financing of 27 projects in Pakistan, for a total cost of US$2.58 billion. During this time, the Government has also had a number of anti-poverty initiatives. Stemming from these efforts, significant progress has been made in reducing the poverty level over the past two decades. Challenges remain, as about one quarter of the population still lives under the national poverty line and about 39% in multi-dimensional poverty. Pakistan ranked 151st out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Report in 2020.