JAMRUD, Khyber — In August 2019, when Ms. Farhat Kifayat Ullah took a position as a Gender Desk Officer in the Khyber District of the Merged Areas she knew that her job would not be easy.

Her arrival at the Khyber District office of the Social Welfare Department caused quite a stir. ‘The main challenge was to get accepted. It’s very difficult for women to work in this context’, she recalls, explaining how the local government officers were at first reluctant to meet a woman. They questioned the purpose of her mission and her competence. “People kept asking me what I could do. They thought I could not do anything being a woman.”

Belonging to an area where it is unusual for women to work outside the house and then to be using public transportation to go to work, she struggles with mobility. But that has not stopped Ms. Kifayat Ullah as she is aware that her role as an effective Gender Desk officer requires her to move around in the area, and actively interact with the stakeholders. 

 

 

One of her responsibilities as the Gender Desk Officers is to bridge the gap between the local government, civil society organizations, and local communities — so local communities can be consulted during the decision-making process. Her role also involves mainstreaming gender priorities within the district’s local government. Ms. Kifayat Ullah’s first meetings in this regard were held with the representatives of the Agriculture Department and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in the Khyber District, to explain the need for her function and to discuss gender-related issues. 

 

 

After countless interactions with stakeholders, to convince them of the importance of her mission, she eventually started getting invited to meetings. She managed to assert her position after months of determination and perseverance. The attitude of her counterparts gradually changed as she was getting recognised for her work in the district and beyond. She was even referred by the NGOs, in the neighbouring Peshawar District, which needed guidance and had heard about her work on gender mainstreaming in Khyber District.

Along with other six Gender Desk Officer, Ms. Kifayat Ullah is proud to have created a space for women to work in the local government structure.

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This story is part of an ongoing pilot of seven Gender Desks initiative in the Merged Areas— supported by German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and implemented by UNDP Pakistan, in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The pilot has paved way for the first-ever gender mainstreaming initiative by the government in the Merged Areas. An initiative “Promoting Gender Mainstreaming”  prepared by the Social Welfare Department was approved by the Cabinet of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government earlier this year. 

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