Canada Hosts Panel Discussion on Advancing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls

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Islamabad:(Rana Tariq) The High Commission of Canada was proud to host a panel discussion on Advancing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls at the High Commissioner’s Official Residence. The all-female panel of experts comprised Roshaneh Zafar, Founder, Kashf Foundation; Rabiya Javeri Agha, Chairperson, National Commission for Human Rights; Zeba Sathar, Country Director, Population Council Pakistan; and Nighat Siddique, Additional Director General, Gender Affairs, Election Commission of Pakistan. Hina Jilani, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, also delivered keynote remarks.

Addressing an audience composed of civil society representatives, Canada’s development partners in Pakistan, and members of the diplomatic community, the panellists addressed key crosscutting issues including women’s economic empowerment, violence against women and access to justice, health and family planning, and women’s political participation. The event was organized in the context of the 75th anniversary of Canada-Pakistan bilateral relations and presented an opportunity to reflect collectively on the way forward for Canada’s international assistance in Pakistan.

Discussing women’s rights in Pakistan, keynote speaker Hina Jilani underscored the importance of civil society’s role in progress towards gender equality, as well as the impact of international public opinion and advocacy from countries such as Canada. Panellists discussed the various systemic barriers faced by women in terms of participation in all spheres of society and the full enjoyment of their rights. While engaging with participants, they also described the continuing challenges hampering their impact on the ground as well as recent successes in their respective fields.

In her remarks, High Commissioner Wendy Gilmour highlighted the importance of supporting all dimensions of women and girls’ empowerment in Canada’s engagement with Pakistan. She reflected on the devastation inflicted by this year’s floods and how disaster situations affect women the most. However, she also recognized the exceptional actors of change she had the privilege to meet during her four years as High Commissioner to Pakistan and assured everyone that she was leaving optimistic about the quality of partners on the ground and their ability to work on women and girls issues.

Canada has been a development partner in Pakistan since 1951 and has a dedicated bilateral development programme in Pakistan, through which it invests around CAD 20 million every year. Canada also provides assistance through other channels including its global support to established international development agencies and development banks, as well as its humanitarian assistance, such as the recent CAD 5 million commitment in response to this year’s deadly floods. Pakistan continues to face immense challenges in areas such as violence against women, girls’ education, and women’s economic participation.