ISLAMABAD: With the global women rights movement gaining momentum each year, there is a greater realisation of giving women not only their basic rights but also a practical role in everyday life.
The growing interest in celebrating International Women’s Day remind us of the women’s increased awareness about their rights and obligations.
Pakistani women’s contribution in the country’s public and private sectors has been on the rise. As against the traditional professions of teaching and medicine, the number of qualified women serving at different ministries, autonomous institutions and regulators is fast increasing.
One such federal government regulatory watchdog is the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) where women are not just serving in its different tiers but also predominantly in the leadership roles.
In the commission, women are integral part of its core functions since its establishment. Two accomplished and distinguished women professionals, Rahat Kaunain Hassan and Maleeha Mimi Bangash, were among the first founding members of the commission in 2007. And now, to add to this moment of living history, uniquely, not only three of the four times, the CCP has been headed by a woman, but also, remarkably, three of the four of its current members are also women.
Moreover, the average gender representation ratio at the CCP has been at least one-third of its team of officers.
From two consecutive years, this uniqueness is celebrated with the advent of the International Women’s Day. In 2021, the commission held a series of events from March 8 to 10 at its head office in Islamabad.
The events provided an opportunity for experience sharing and inspiration seeking from the speeches of successful women like Shahnaz Wazir Ali, the recipient of Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Sadia Khan, first female commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Maheen Rahman, youngest CEO of an asset management company and Batool Asadi, first female assistant commissioner from Balochistan.
This year, the International Women’s Day was marked by holding a seminar on “Policy and regulation through gender lens – for creating a level-playing field”, discussing the importance of the policy and regulation in the context of gender issues and to deliberate ways and means to bridge the existing gaps.
Over a hundred female participants from different regulatory bodies, including SBP, FBR, SECP, Nepra, Ogra, PTA, PEC and Pepra attended the seminar.
Along with CCP Chairperson Rahat Kaunain Hassan and members Shaista Bano and Bushra Naz Malik, other speakers and panelists included Shahera Shahid, secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Pemra Member Sima Kamil, SBP Deputy Governor Ambreen Iftikhar, FBR Member Sadia Khan, SECP Commissioner Jahanara Sajjad, former member of the Audit Oversight Board, Nighat Amir, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting director general and Mussarat Jabeen, executive director of the SECP.
In her opening remarks, the CCP chairperson said the objective of selecting the topic “Policy and regulation through a gender lens” is to recognise the share and pursue the seriousness of purpose that is entrusted to the regulators in their respective domains. While policy making is not our domain yet by virtue of our regulatory role we can act as a catalyst in helping the government to make it effective.”
For ensuring and enhancing economic participation of women on a level-playing field, prioritised policy areas with the gender focus may include education, health, trade and labour policy, SMEs, and promoting women in leadership roles, she said.
Such prioritisation resonates with the gender gap index established by the World Economic Forum, which includes as its sub-indexes educational attainment, health and survival, economic participation and opportunity and political empowerment.
To this end, she emphasised the need for gender-disaggregated data and documentation for informed policy making.
She also proposed that the National Commission on Status of Women may consider building a sectoral data bank of all working/professional women, be that women in regulation, law, accountancy, engineering, media, judiciary, information technology, medicine, art, architecture or any other field; to break the myth that there are not many qualified women.
Addressing the panel on “Government policies and initiatives towards gender equality”, Shahera Shahid said that despite the social and economic difficulties, women are excelling in every field with honesty and dignity, where the number of women in key leadership positions in Pakistan has gradually increased.
Addressing the same panel, Ambreen Iftikhar said that women empowerment can be achieved through their participation in the formal economy.
“Women are more ethical and more committed, and we just need to facilitate and inform them,” she added.
The second panel discussion was on “At the regulator level – adopt board reform programmes with clear objectives and implementation framework to ensure gender equality.”
Sadia Khan said that the SECP has taken various initiatives to promote gender diversity at the workplace by issuing circulars to various sectors and to develop gender diversity policy at board levels.
Addressing the second panel, Bushra Naz Malik said that women in a leadership role in the public sector can help bridge gender disparity gap.
Jahanara Sajjad emphasised on better female membership on public and private organisation boards.
Sima Kamil highlighted the “Banking on equality” policy, which focuses on increasing the number of women in the banking workforce, moving from gender-neutral to gender-intentional policies, ensuring women’s champions at all access points and overcoming women-related data challenges.
The panel discussion on “Improving advocacy by ensuring transparency and non-discrimination in the organisation processes”, was addressed by Shaista Bano, who said that the importance of effective advocacy cannot be denied advocating for gender equality.
Mussarat Jabeen said: “We need to develop a gender-responsive recruitment policies in organisations.
Nighat Amir said that her ministry has more gender diversity and more women on a leadership role in different departments, which is playing a very productive role in their capacities.