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Create enabling environments that foster women’s participation: report

Create enabling environments that foster women’s participation: report

ISLAMABAD: In Pakistan, women are paid for 1.3 hours on average time spent as compared to men who are paid for 5.35 hours — reflecting 0.47 hours unpaid work for men and 4.78 hours for women, a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) notes.

The ‘Gender, the Environment and Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific’ is the first survey to comprehensively map out the intersections between gender and environment at the levels of household, work, community and policy in Asia-Pacific.

The survey notes that in comparison, India’s figure for paid work is 6.82 hours and 3.02 hours for women. Similarly, in respect of unpaid work for men is 0.45 hours whereas for women it is 4.35 hours.

The report revealed that most economically-active women are in the agriculture sector, yet less than 20 per cent of women hold secure tenure to the lands they farm.

It is widely acknowledged that if women have access to and control of the same opportunities and resources as men, their contributions would increase food production by as little as 2.5pc and by as much as 4pc — enough to move 150 million people out of hunger and poverty across the developing the world, the report says.

The key findings of the report show that 66pc of workers in large-scale marine fisheries are women but their work, more often than not, remain formally unrecognised as official data tends to focus on male bastions such as open-ocean and river fishing, ignoring activities such as post-harvest processing and net-making.

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 84pc of people working in fisheries and aquaculture and 94pc of people engaged in fish farming. Of them, 66pc of the workers in large-scale marine fisheries and 54pc in small-scale inland fisheries are women.

Despite the seemingly valuable contribution that women make to this sector, the nature of their work is treated as inconsequential. Women often work as low-skilled, low-paid labourers and have irregular seasonal employment in processing, packaging and marketing.

The report urged member countries to develop well-articulated commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment through specific gender policy declarations within the food, energy, water, fisheries and forestry sector

FEMINISATION OF AGRICULTURE: Women constitute around 42pc of the total labour force in the agricultural sector of the Asia-Pacific region.

The feminisation of agriculture in Asia has been linked to male rural out migration that leaves women behind to venture into areas of farming previously undertaken by their husbands, though at lower remuneration.

Lack of access to productive resources and limited bargaining power puts women at a disadvantage when it comes to improving farm-based income in the absence of their husbands, the survey states.

Gender inequality is one of the most pervasive challenges throughout the region and the world. Trends in the Asia-Pacific region reflect a mixed picture on different aspects of gender inequality, with substantial variations across countries and territories.

In a number of countries, less than 10pc of agricultural landholders are women. These include Bangladesh (4.6pc), Fiji (3.6pc), Iran (5.9pc) and Nepal (8.1pc).

Countries with a larger proportion of women agricultural landholders, which ranges from 23pc to 30pc of total agricultural landholders, include Armenia, Georgia, Niue, Samoa and Thailand.

The poorest five performers in terms of gender inequality are Afghanistan (154th of 157 countries), Tonga (152nd), Papua New Guinea (143rd), Pakistan (130th), India (125th) and Bangladesh (119th).

The levels of female political representation in the Asia-Pacific region are low in comparison with other regions of the world. As of July 2017, 23.6pc of all national parliamentarians or equivalent globally were women, although the proportion in the Asia-Pacific region was 18pc.

Throughout the region, women only account for 21pc of elected officials at those levels.

At the local level, where communities elect councils, affirmative action, such as quotas, has led to increased participation of women. In Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, women accounted for 23pc, 37pc and 19pc, respectively, of rural council members as of October 2010.

POVERTY: In many countries, rural poverty is significantly more pervasive and more pronounced than urban poverty. An examination of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), revealed the vast difference in poverty dimensions between rural and urban households.

The widest MPI gap between rural and urban scores can be found in Afghanistan, India, Lao, Pakistan and Timor Leste, pointing to higher levels of multidimensional deprivation in rural areas than in urban areas.

The report concludes that enacting gender-sensitive policies and interventions that recognise and respond to the discrete concerns of women and their critical management of resources is fundamental to tackling food security, water, energy and other environmental challenges.

It called for creating enabling environments that foster women’s participation and leadership in the management of environmental resources would positively influence conservation and resource efficiency.

A shift is needed from a narrow focus on the “participation” of women to the “recognition” of women’s knowledge and capacities to manage environmental resources.

Dawn

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