ISLAMABAD: Experts during a conference have emphasized the need to empower  women for growth and prosperity as the country is losing 30% of its GDP due to non-inclusion of women in development agenda and is the second last on gender pay gap while only 1% of women in Pakistan are entrepreneurs.

These remarks were given during a conference organized by LEAD Pakistan and supported by Urban Institute IDRC and UKAid and aimed to stir a greater debate calling for female participation in economic activities, which will  promote sustainable and inclusive economic development in the country.

Speaking to the participants, Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women in Pakistan said that women’s  contribution does not get highlighted in statistics and there is a need to highlight their efforts for the betterment of the society.

‘Women contribute 400 billion rupees a year but that is not highlighted appropriately and still the nexus between phenomenal work and women  empowerment is not examined as yet. We have also not linked the impacts of climate change on women and the opportunities associated with it’ she added.

Member National Assembly Shaista Malik said that while the Constitution gives equal rights to women, the society does not but whenever they have been given a chance the women have proved their diligence, ability.

She said that awareness of rights is more important for men than women and they need to be sensitized to accept that women are equal.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CEO LEAD Pakistan said that not one of 169 targets of 17 SDGs targets will be met unless women are put in the center of development, especially in climate change.

He said that investing in knowledge on women’s empowerment and the effect of climate change is critical.

Dr. Aliya H. Khan, Professor of Economics, Quaid-e-Azam University queried, we hear the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be a game changer  but the question is, can it change the game for female labor force participation?

Gillian Dowie, Program Officer, Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women  Program, International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada, said,

‘Investing in knowledge on women’s empowerment and the effect of climate change is critical.

We look forward to learning about the evidence from Pakistan today, taking stock of the lessons internationally, and identifying tangible policy solutions.

She said that sustainable development cannot be achieved if women aren’t the part of the development agenda.

Unfortunately in Pakistan, women face issues to their participation on various avenues. H. Elizabeth Peters, Center Director, Urban Institute, Washington DC said that climate change is another area of concern, as it has greater impact on those who rely on natural resources for their livelihoods which includes  women as well.

She said that women can play a greater role in fighting climate change due to their local knowledge. During the event, a televised discussion on empowering women for national  development also took place.