The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) of COMSATS Institute of Information Technology
(CIIT), recently organized a seminar on Development in Pakistan and Women Inclusive
Strategies. This was part of the on-going endeavors of the Centre to highlight issues of public
interest and generate wide discussion on policy issues. The idea is to stimulate debate among
the stakeholders that is the civil society, public and private sectors of Pakistan. In the process of
creating awareness through brainstorming, inputs are used for making policy recommendations
through publications on the seminars and their dissemination among all concerned.
The seminar on Development in Pakistan and Women Inclusive strategies had the following
? To address issues related to the Government’s gender related policies, structural and
institutional mechanisms as well as the role of NGOs.
? To highlight the importance of tapping the resource of a large women workforce of the country
by creating necessary space through normative and organizational support triggering societal
change in the long run.
? To explore, from capacity building to creating opportunities in the political, social and economic
spheres of activity to the management and leadership orientation in the backdrop of the
development needs of Pakistan.
? To showcase the social and economic advantages of integrating women in all spheres of activity.
Along with the seminar an exhibition by women entrepreneurs and by the NGOs involved in
skill/craft development and training was organized. 35 different product manufacturers put up their
stalls. This was an important initiative as it reflected: a) the contributions women are making in
enhancing the economic profile of Pakistan; b) their role in promoting local craft entrenched in
indigenous culture and in strengthening the social fabric of the society; and c) the social and economic
dividends as well the potential of womenfolk of Pakistan. The exhibition provided a very good platform
to the participants in networking, learning from each other about marketing techniques and gaining
from the experience of those women who had been in this field for a longer period. Thus it fulfilled the
much need requirement of mentoring and displaying leadership qualities.
Speaking on the occasion Dr. S.M. Junaid Zaidi, Rector of Comsats dwelt on the Institution’s genesis
and its achievements, the significant contributions being made by the female faculty and how the
institution had undertaken forward steps for the integration of women faculty and students. He
emphasized that this was in acknowledgement of the potential role of women in the development of
Pakistan. Similarly, Mr. Khalid Saeed, Director, CPS pointed out that a lot had been done in this regard
but more needed to be done as reflected in Pakistan’s poor ranking on gender issues in various
international reports and surveys. He said Pakistan ranked 123 on the gender inequality index of UNDP
2013 Human Development Report. The seminar and the exhibition needed to be viewed in the backdrop
of the aforementioned profile and the need to develop a consensus to formulate and implement such
programmes and policies that would improve gender imbalance. He expressed the hope that this
initiative of the Centre would bring forth a new wave of women inclusive strategies; would create
synergies among the key stakeholders and would enable, the Centre to come up with policy
These sessions were chaired by specialists in development field and on gender issues and threw light
on various aspects. The panelists presented papers that enhanced understanding of the issues that were
identified as the most relevant in building a holistic picture. Chairing the session on Governance and
Gender Mainstreaming, Dr. Masuma Hasan underscored that besides policy making, implementation
was necessary and that there were still large marginalized groups. The activists and policy advisers must
insist on an obvious women’s representation in legislation. Earlier as a panelist presenting the Global
Perspective, Ms. Melissa Kelly, First Secretary, Australian High Commission briefly dilated upon the UN
initiatives and international trends on gender mainstreaming. Her special focus was on Australia’s own
strategies in this regard pointing out that Australia elected its first woman Prime Minister in 2010.
Qazi Azmat Isa made a thought provoking concluding statement of the session on Women Focused
Poverty Alleviation Strategies with reference to Pakistan’s own “massive diversity”. He underlined that
proper steps were needed for poverty alleviation which included: addressing our own values and
showing respect and inclusion: the nest would be to formulate strategies founded on economic and
social aspects; and finally dealing with poverty alleviation for which two kinds of institutions were
needed: institutions for the poor and by the poor. He emphasized that Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund
was just doing that.
In the final session on Social and Cultural Milieu of Pakistan, Dr. Farzana Bari emphasized that we
need to keep in mind, who is created the discourses on gender issues. Religion, art and culture should
shape gender realities. An important aspect to remember is that although women are treated as
inferiors both men and women are mutually dependent. A positive change is in the interest of everyone.
Therefore steps must be taken to create space for bringing women at par with men in the socioeconomic
development of Pakistan.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Ambassador Fauzia Nasreen, Adviser, CPS expressed satisfaction
that the seminar was productive and was able to achieve its primary objectives. She thanked the
chairpersons and the panelists for their thought provoking and enlightening contributions. She
highlighted the following points that emerged from the seminar:
? The first session of the seminar clearly established the linkage between governance and gender
mainstreaming. In the process of this the significance of building leadership qualities and the
impact of mentoring was duly outlined.
? The second session comprehensively explored strategy formulation for dealing with poverty
among women. There was stress on self-reflection on our values, importance of cultural
diversity/ plurality and making poor-targeting strategies culturally-based. There was an equal
emphasis on the rationale for expanding space for women in socio-economic sphere.
? The third and the final session discussed the socio-economic arena. Various aspects focusing on
how Islam looks at gender in particular women, women as agents of change and women as
portrayed in art and literature. The need for changing projection of women from a certain
perspective was emphasized. It was also underscored that both men and women are partners
and mutually dependent on each other. Therefore socio-cultural knowledge about inclusion of
both the genders must be disseminated.
? In conclusion it was stressed that integration of women in various sectors will bring socioeconomic
benefits and help in promoting a spirit of toleration, non-violence and peace and
It is essential that the academicians, activists, social organizations and civil society must continue to
play an essential role in giving a sense of constructive direction to including women in different spheres
of national activity. An important step could be to form community based organizations of women could
be constituted to provide counseling to other women on social issues. Above all policy making should be
a collective effort of both men and women and women should be given reasonable space in reflecting
their problems and advocating solutions to those problems. Last but not the least sensitivity should be
shown to the cultural diversity within Pakistan. Most importantly the nation must capitalize on the
women workforce for building stable and peaceful society.