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Lack of qualified staff deemed a hindrance

The absence of qualified researchers needed to carry out an impact assessment survey has placed the whole exercise under a cloud. The decision taken by the Sindh Women Development department to carry out an impact assessment survey on the capacity building of female councilors in all the three tiers of local government cannot be started as the department does not have the researchers required to conduct the study, say officials.

In a meeting between the caretaker minister for women development, Nadira Panjwani and Dr Khalida Ghaus, Director Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), on Friday, the need to undertake a study on this issue was discussed. The study will gauge the effectiveness of the participation of women in the formal and non-formal sector. The focus will be on those females belonging to the lower strata of the society. However, it has been learnt that the research can begin once the new government takes charge and recruits researchers.

While talking to The News about the importance of carrying out this study, Ghaus said that the changing pattern of female representation in the local government system presents a positive picture, but a study of the two tenures of local councilors will help identify the loopholes in the system in order to make it more effective in the coming years. After the devolution plan, the local governments are seen as prime agents for delivering social services such as education and health, and continuation of the process can promise better health and education facilities, which can equip the people to get out of the poverty trap. Hence, the process of poverty reduction has to be seen via the impact of decentralisation, said Ghaus, who suggested that the provincial Women Development Department carry out a study on how successful the capacity building of female councilors is.

The SPDC annual report of 2006-2007 also says the devolution process is beginning to contribute to a substantially faster improvement in enrolment at primary level education in the country and if the process continues, the incidence of poverty can be reduced in the coming years. “Significant improvement in health indicators for women were also noted where the proportion of births attended by medical personnel has increased and the rate has doubled from 23 per cent in 2001-2002 to 46 per cent in 2005-2006,” said the report. However, the report also highlighted that due to the influence of the federal government, the provincial government was unable to implement the devolution plan in letter and spirit due to which “decentralisation has not actually led to the significant empowerment of women” — a problem that needs to be addressed by the new provincial government.

In 2005, a set of amendments in the Local Government Ordinance 2001 initiated by the federal government, led to a reduction in the number of reserved seats for women in the 2005 elections. This is to say that in 2001, one seat was available for 3,924 people but after a substantial decline in representation in 2005, one woman seat covers 6, 293 people today. “Now that we have a civilian government, special attention has to be given to the local government that can contribute to the process of poverty reduction in the years to come,” stressec Ghaus. She further added that the new government has to be convinced about the importance of women in the system that will push for allocation of public resources to gender related investments. This, she said, will not just help raise their status but gradually reduce poverty as well. “I hope they are given a fair chance and the process is not impeded by socio-cultural backwardness.”
Source: The News

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