Gender equality is included in the priority areas for the European Union in Pakistan, European Union Ambassador Jean Francois Cautain said on Monday.
In an interview, Cautain said that gender equality and the fight against violence against women was the core of EU policies in Europe and other partner countries.
“We as EU have defined a new gender action plan in order to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in Europe and around the globe. The thematic priorities are physical and psychological integrity, promotion of economic and social rights and strengthening girls’ and women’s voice and participation,” he said.
To a question about women rights, the ambassador said, the promotion of women’ rights and empowerment was an important aspect in all EU development programmes in Pakistan.
“We are already partnering with the government of Pakistan at federal and provincial levels in different initiatives, ie in rural development, education and nutrition,” he said.
He said that EU appreciated the initiatives the government of Pakistan, the Parliament, the provincial assemblies, the Commission on the Status of Women and civil society organisations had pushed forward, like the new law on violence against women that was passed last year and recently the inauguration of Pakistan’s first Violence against Women Centre in Multan.
“We are ready to support the government with other programmes that are planned as we strongly believe that unleashing the potential of all women in Pakistan will bring more prosperity and stability,” he said.
To a question about education in Pakistan, the ambassador said: “Let us be clear, first of all, education is first the priority of the government of Pakistan. The EU is here to support government’s efforts. Indeed we have been supporting education in Pakistan since 1998.”
He said that currently the EU had education programmes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan where it was supporting the provincial governments to provide quality education to all boys and girls.
“It is true that in Pakistan education provision is based on class system, with the poorest of the poor enrolled in madrassas; while lower income group children are enrolled in public sector schools; middle class children are enrolled at low cost private schools and more expensive private schools cater to the elite class,” he said.
“There are still 22.6 million out-of-school children, and educational inequalities in Pakistan, based on wealth, but also on many other factors, such as gender, disability, geographical location, are among the highest in the world,” he said.
“The EU is supporting the governments of Sindh, KP and Balochistan to address inequalities in education, by, for example, focusing on girls’ education in all three provinces and providing stipends to out-of-school children in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.
“It is clear that in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goals on education in Pakistan, increased efforts are needed to address inequalities in education and to ensure that all children have access to quality education,” he said.
Referring to business ties with the EU, the ambassador said that Pakistani exporters had benefitted significantly from GSP+ status. “Pakistan’s exports to the EU have increased by 38 percent during 2013-16. A lot more can be achieved in this regard,” he said.
The ambassador said that the business potential between the EU and Pakistan was remarkably high. “I am very satisfied that textile exports are doing well, but I always emphasise that Pakistan needs to diversify. And for this purpose, GSP+ offers a great opportunity,” he said.
“Pakistan, being an agricultural country, can enhance exports of its agricultural products availing the GSP+ status. The EU has helped Pakistan improve the export of seafood and kinnow through its Trade Related Technical Assistance,” he said. “I hope that the exporters, with the support of the government of Pakistan, will domestically invest in new products in value addition to maximize the increase in exports,” he added.
DNA. EU committed to gender equality in partner countries: envoy. Daily Times, May 2, 2017.