Empowering Women through Ehsaas Program

A country cannot thrive when half of its population is not educated and enabled to fulfill their potential. Therefore, at its core, Ehsaas aims to lift the 7 million poorest women in Pakistan out of poverty and help them to achieve their potential.

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Prior to the Ehsaas program, opportunities for women in Pakistan have been limited but the Ehsaas program launched by the current government, under the leadership of Imran Khan, is playing an exceptional role in Women’s empowerment in Pakistan. In an effort to make Pakistan a welfare state, on 27 March 2019 Ehsaas program which consists of 115 policies was launched by the government. Its aim is to uplift the underprivileged strata of society by providing them with financial assistance and safeguarding their rights.

Recently, the World Bank in its press release has recognized Pakistan’s government Ehsaas Emergency Cash program among the top four social protection interventions globally in terms of the number of people covered. As per the report, Pakistan’s provincial governments also implemented supportive fiscal measures from the onset of the shock, including cash grants to low-income households, tax relief, and additional health spending. This also includes the increase in salary for health workers.

One wonders whether the Ehsaas program is sufficient for women’s empowerment. Is it countering the problems and stigmas associated with women in general? Is there any room for improvement in the established policies?

The Ehsaas program in this regard has launched several policies. Ehsaas Kafaalat provides a monthly stipend of Rs2,000 along with a saving bank account to deserving women, Ehsaas Waseela-e-Taleem Digital is encouraging girls to maintain at least 70% attendance in schools by providing them with Rs2,000 stipend per month, Ehsaas Nashonuma caters health and nutrition of women and children alike. Insaf Card covers health conditions for women, preferentially. Adding further, to encourage women entrepreneurs Ehsaas Interest-Free Loan is providing loans from Rs20,000 to Rs75,000. In Ehsaas Amdan, 60% of small income-generating assets have been allocated for women. Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarships have 50% reserved scholarships for girls specifically.

On a digital level, a portal for women titled “ShEmpower” is to be established. It will provide various services to women entrepreneurs including promotion of their businesses, enabling them to participate in virtual events, providing them information about business registration procedures, and helping them in capacity building through various training programs. To facilitate women further, Ehsaas has launched clean cooking stoves. Ehsaas has also established a Women Empowerment Center (WEC). Its aim is to enhance and empower women by offering skill-based training. This includes courses on computer literacy, beautician, dress designing and making, and hand and machine embroidery. These courses will be certified by the National Technology Board. This certification will increase the credibility of these courses and help women in earning a livelihood.

In this context, Dr. Sania Nishtar said, “A country cannot thrive when half of its population is not educated and enabled to fulfill their potential. Therefore, at its core, Ehsaas aims to lift the 7 million poorest women in Pakistan out of poverty and help them to achieve their potential.”  Therefore, in 2020 Ehsaas delivered 54% emergency cash to women during the pandemic. The program is well established and strategically targeted to uplift women. It is helping in achieving Pakistan a positive image internationally. Furthermore, the program is in line with SDG-5 (Gender Equality). No doubt the program has achieved the desired results to a certain extent but it still has a long way to achieve the desired results as there several social evils which still exist in society. For instance, in remote areas, people are against the education of women.

In light of the structural gaps highlighted, the following recommendations can be undertaken in order to improve the effectiveness of the Ehsaas program Women empowerment initiative. First of all, the government should educate women about their rights by launching several campaigns. Further, there should be education programs to spread awareness among the people who are against the education of women. Women can play a decisive role in the economic and societal growth of the country. This needs to be taught to the masses of our society. This step will surely prove to be the first rung in the ladder of Pakistan’s economic, social, political, and national development.

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