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Building Inclusive Societies

Mar 14, 2019

“…. without equality and empowerment, we will simply perpetuate today’s paradigm: trying to address all the world’s challenges with only half the world’s assets,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, underscoring the need for gender equality.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General’s words carry some important lessons for all countries, and more specifically, resonate with some of what the United Nations, through its work in 193 countries, is striving to achieve at the global level.

In Pakistan, at least half the population consists of women, yet, with less than a quarter of the total labour force comprising of women and with still low levels of education and lack of access to health services, women are vastly underrepresented in most areas of social sector development. Hence, the all too significant, but often neglected, question remains: are women being sufficiently included in the development processes?

While important progress has been made in the past few years on the women’s empowerment front, the latest human development trends for Pakistan paint a rather stark picture—indicating a largely uneven distribution of resources between men and women. For example, women on average are expected to complete only 7.8 years of schooling compared to 9.4 years for men*, while participation in the labour force for women remains 24.9% compared to 82.7% for men. Pakistan is, thus, ranked significantly lower than most other lower middle-income developing countries in the Gender Inequality Index table. 



In 2018, UNDP increased efforts to promote gender equality in all of its development interventions. UNDP supported the Election Commission of Pakistan’s women voter registration campaign, facilitating more than 4.3 million women to register to exercise their right to vote. The Gender and Disability Working group helped ensure constructive engagement with stakeholders, including women, transgenders, and disabled persons. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, through dedicated support services and livelihood skills trainings, at least 100 women were disengaged from violent extremism and were supported to obtain employment in the small-scale textile industry. To support rule of law in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, UNDP helped set-up eight (8) model police stations in five (5) districts, with 62 dedicated gender desks established for effective gender-responsive policing—these model police stations will offer better services and a more people-friendly environment to some 7.89 million people, out of which at least 49.7% will be women. We also helped train 707 people in gender-responsive policing. Legal assistance enhanced access to justice for 2,149 women in marginalized areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

An experiential problem-solving approach ‘positive-deviance’ was used to identify the challenges faced by women in remote areas of erstwhile FATA, which hindered their participation in public life, to gain a deeper insight on how these women overcame social resistance.

Our policy planning was made more inclusive by engaging women in policy debates. The 2017 National Human Development Report reached out to over 130,000 young people, out of which 49% were women. Youth Gender Inequality Index was introduced which captured gender-based inequality trends. UNDP also highlighted issues faced by women in its policy publications which were used to underscore the need for more inclusive policies.

In some remote areas where women’s participation is limited, UNDP continued to expand outreach to women, empowering women as peacebuilders and decision-makers.

Additionally, provision of clean drinking water in Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffargarh and Okara provided relief to women who previously travelled long distances to access water. As our efforts to accelerate adaptation to climate change gathered pace, we ensured that women benefitted equally from these initiatives.

Our featured partner in this edition, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, has been instrumental in helping provide access to justice to vulnerable populations, especially women, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

However, despite these important steps taken to promote gender equality, the evolving development landscape calls for collective action to ensure that no one is left behind. Stronger results are only possible if all segments of the society have equal access to fundamental rights.

*Source: Human Development Indices and Indicators: 2018 Statistical update

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