Islamabad: More than 63 million people were the direct or indirect beneficiaries of USAID and Aurat Foundation’s (AF) Gender Equity Programme (GEP), largest stand-alone gender initiative since the founding of Pakistan, which continued from 2010 to 2017.
The statistics were shared at the closing ceremony of GEP, aimed at advancing women’s human rights and empowerment in Pakistan. The original project life was five years (2010-2015), but it was extended for two more years and is going to close on August 15, 2017. It was a grant-making program with the total budget outlay of US$ 38 million and a broader goal to narrow gender gaps in Pakistan.
The program had four main objectives including enhancing gender equity by expanding women’s access to justice; increasing women’s empowerment by expanding knowledge of their rights and opportunities to exercise their rights in the workplace community, and home; combating gender based violence and strengthening the capacity of Pakistani organizations that advocate for gender equity, women’s empowerment and the elimination of gender based violence.
Sharing of success stories, inspiring speeches and incredible performances by Shehzad Roy and Uncle Surgam team featured the closing ceremony which was attended by all stakeholders including beneficiaries, academicians, politicians, social activists, civil society members etc.
Sharing the success of the program, GEP Chief of Party Younas Khalid said that there were 13689693 direct and 49,800,169 indirect beneficiaries of the program in past seven years. He said that 475528 CNIC were issued to women under this program and 45,458 survivors of gender based violence were supported through different shelters.
“It is a movement which will continue till we achieve our goal of a smiling, empowered Pakistani woman. A women who is aware of her rights and able to access justice system with ease; who has equal economic rights, opportunities and access to resources,” he said.
Speaking on this occasion, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Cristina Tomlinson said that the closing ceremony coincides with the 70th anniversary of Pakistan. “For 70 years, America and Pakistan have worked together to advance our mutual interests including democracy, security, and economic development in Pakistan and the region.”
She said that expanding the role of women in Pakistan’s economy improves the country’s economic growth and stability. “It is a good moment to reflect on the progress made, to continue the call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. The women of this country are amazing.”
Cristina said that for societies to thrive, women and girls must have equal opportunities for education, health care, and technology. They must have access to resources, lands, and markets. And they must have equal rights and equal opportunities as leaders, peace-builders, and breadwinners. “Gender equality and women’s empowerment cannot simply be a part of development – it must be at the center of development. Advancing the status of women and girls worldwide is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do,” she added.
She appreciated the fact that through the GEP program, women have witnessed substantial advances. “While there is work yet to be done, we are seeing more equity in women’s access to justice, increased knowledge of rights and opportunities, the reduction of gender based violence, and the increased capacity of Pakistani organizations to advocate for gender equality,” she said.
AF’s Chief Operating Officer Naeem Mirza thanked all the partner and said that there can be no development, peace or happiness without equal participation of women.