After over a decade of conflict and insecurity in many areas of Pakistan, there is now hope that peace is now returning; alongside the establishment and strengthening of institutions to enhance the rule of law and encourage participation of women, men and children in sustaining peace and building cohesive communities.
However, while many areas of Pakistan have experienced improvements in development, many communities are excluded from its benefits and remain unaware of their basic human rights. This is particularly true of Pakistani women.
Nearly half of Pakistan’s 207.8 million people are female, yet women and girls are amongst the most deprived segments of society. According to UNDP’s Human Development Index, Pakistan ranks as low as 130th out of 159 countries on the Gender Inequality Index, with a score of 0.546. This reflects women’s low participation in education, work and public life. Only 26.5 percent of women have any secondary education, compared to 46.1 of their male counterparts, while female participation in the labour force is 24.3 percent compared to 82.2 percent for men. Only 3 per cent of Pakistanis at senior decision-making levels, including legislators, senior officials and managers, are women.
As a result, many Pakistani women require support to build capacity and participate fully in preventing conflict and building peaceful societies, as well as to realise their rights to fulfil their life aspirations and contribute to their communities.
Despite numerous social and economic impediments, women in Pakistan are actively pursuing peace by reaching across ethnic and religious divides to defuse tensions and rebuild communities.
The essential contribution women make to peace and development in Pakistan seldom receives the recognition it deserves. Yet women’s work to promote sustainable peace is imperative for the country’s development.
For this reason, the N-Peace initiative in Pakistan aims to recognize the work of women and men leaders who, through their efforts, are promoting peace and rebuilding lives at local and community levels. UNDP has implemented N-Peace in Pakistan since 2012. Today, it is a trusted partner in implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda in the country, both at the national level and focusing on areas vulnerable to insecurity in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Balochistan, and the urban centre of Karachi. It has had a central role in encouraging dialogue, creating community groups to enhance women’s engagement in local decision-making, building capacity and networks amongst female lawmakers, enhancing women’s access to justice and security, increasing women’s participation in voting, economically empowering young women and men through skills training and entrepreneurship programmes, and promoting volunteerism.