BISP Women Empowerment Advisory Forum Recommends Policy Guidelines for Gender Equality – May 25, 2017

Government of Pakistan

Benazir Income Support Programme


Press Release

25th May 2017



Islamabad: The first meeting of BISP Women Empowerment Advisory Forum chaired by Minister of State and Chairperson BISP MNA Marvi Memon was held today at BISP headquarters to discuss policy guidelines for the social, economic and political empowerment of BISP beneficiaries. The advisory forum comprising of national and international experts discussed gender policy, malnutrition, stunting, reproductive health, girl school enrollment, gender responsive curriculum , E-commerce, financial inclusion of women, workplace gender diversity and violence against women and suggested policy guidelines that will form basis of the social mobilization campaign of BISP on women empowerment.

The meeting was attended by Stephen Glunning Deputy Country Director WFP, Vibeke Jensen Director UNESCO, Abbas Rashid Executive Director SAHI, Rosemary Arnott Gender Specialist UNICEF, Jamshed Qazi Country Representative UNWomen, Zeba Sathar Country Director Population Council, Rukshana Asghar CEO Fulcrum, Khawar Mumtaz Chairperson National Commission on Status of Women, Ingred Christiance Country Director ILO, Muneeza Hashmi, Jalal-ud-din Director Hashoo Foundation, Muhammad Mudassar ICIMOD, Fatima Akhtar Nestle, Asma Sheikh TCS, Yasmin Masood Secretary BISP and Naveed Akbar Director BISP.

During her opening remarks, Chairperson BISP Marvi Memon stated that the goal of BISP is to empower women financially, socially and politically. Having access to poorest women and the presence of mobilization forum of 50,000 BISP Beneficiary Committees (BBCs) provide BISP with the potential and responsibility to work on the human development of its beneficiaries.  The feedback of this august forum and the curriculum designed consequently will help BISP educate its beneficiaries, thus leading to real human development in the country.

Director BISP Naveed Akbar, while presenting an overview of BISP said that the impact evaluations highlight enhanced mobility, increased participation by women in elections, enhanced school enrollment and financial empowerment of women as 74% of women retain full control over their stipend. He said that BISP has contributed towards reducing malnutrition but the malnutrition rates are still alarming in the BISP community.

During session on health, while highlighting WFP commitments Stephen Glunning said that social protection is a tool for women empowerment. It is high time to widen partnership between BISP and WFP for the inculcation of nutrition practices in BISP beneficiaries through BBCs. Fatima Akhtar from Nestle apprised the forum of recent collaboration between Nestle and BISP that will provide livelihood opportunities to beneficiaries and train them on nutrition. It was agreed that working group on nutrition consisting of Nestle, WFP, UNICEF, Hashoo Foundation and Population Council will jointly develop a curriculum on nutrition for BISP beneficiaries. Zeba Sathar while presenting a plan to reach out to BISP beneficiaries stated that BISP database is a goldmine that needs to be effectively utilized to address the reproductive health needs of the beneficiaries. Muneeza Hashmi, Khawar Mumtaz and Zeba Sathar will chalk out a plan for the training of social mobilizers that will further educate the beneficiaries on health. A presentation on Hepatitis C screening model was also made by Mahira Rafique that has been carried out successfully by BISP in collaboration with volunteers and has screened BISP beneficiaries for hepatitis in pilot district of Gujranwala.

Vibeke Jensen Director UNESCO said that gender responsive curriculum, promotion of co-curricular activities, improvement of school environment and introduction of flexible timings can remove gender gap in education. It was decided that in the pilot phase UNESCO, SAHI and UNICEF in collaboration with provincial education departments will choose a school from each of four provinces, AJK and GB and introduce gender responsive curriculum that can then be proposed for replication in the entire country. Muneeza Hashmi added that provision of mentorship to women can be instrumental in gender mainstreaming and proposed a pilot of mentorship programme in districts from where gender responsive schools will be chosen so that both can complement each other.  Muhammad Mudassar from ICIMOD gave a detailed presentation on the preparation of bio-briquettes (black gold) and climate smart trainings for the BISP beneficiaries.

Ms. Asma Sheikh gave an overview of TCS and the special job opportunities being provided by TCS to women through its ‘Project Aghaaz’. The existing collaboration between BISP and TCS, for E-commerce initiative of BISP was also discussed. The participants discussed the ways to strengthen this collaboration so that economic opportunities for beneficiaries through sale of their products could be maximized. Jamshed Qazi stated that it is a high time to benefit from this initiative in the wake of MoU signed between Pakistan and Alibaba.

A detailed presentation on training BBCs against violence was given by Ms. Khawar Mumtaz highlighting the statistics on prevalence of violence in the country and the ways to curb this menace. It was discussed among the participants that violence is the biggest barrier in the progress of women. Chairperson BISP stressed upon the need to survey BBCs for finding a baseline before educating them on violence. A working group comprising of Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Valerie Khan, Zeba A. Sathar and Jamshed Qazi was assigned to develop guidelines on the subject.

Ms. Rukhsana Asghar, while speaking on ‘Workplace Gender Diversity’, emphasized upon equal opportunities, equal salaries and additional facilities for working women keeping in view their special needs like maternity leaves and presence of Day Care Centers. A working group was constituted to evaluate BISP as an organization if it is fulfilling the standards of gender diversity. Ms. Rukhsana Asghar, Dr. Zeba A. Sathar and Muneeza Hashmi were included in the working group.