In what could be a significant step towards addressing gender inequalities in Pakistan, lawmakers representing major political parties in four provincial assemblies and senators joined hands on Wednesday for making girls’ education a political priority.
They aligned the cause of girls’ education with a pro-poor and equitable system of taxation. The provincial lawmakers and senators had gathered at the launch of research report, titled Domestic Resource Mobilization in Pakistan: Exploring Avenues for Financing Girls’ Education. The report was prepared by Oxfam in Pakistan (OiP) and Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS).
Apart from Senator Mohsin Khan Leghari and Senator Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh, the participants included Punjab MPAs Rana Munawar Hussain, Lubna Faisal and Sadia Sohail Rana; Sindh MPAs Nawab Muhammad Taimur Talpur, Mehtab Akbar Rashdi and Rana Ansar; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa MPAs Sardar Muhammad Idrees, Jaffar Shah and Amna Sardar; and Balochistan MPAs Masooma Hayat and Syed Agha Raza.
In a discussion that followed the report launch, Senator Leghari said that without domestic resource mobilization, especially equitable system of taxation, the federal and provincial governments are failing to respond to the growing needs of important public services such as education and healthcare.
In context of girls education service delivery, explained I-SAPS research fellow Ahmad Ali, Pakistan at the moment is facing a serious challenge with approximately 24 million out of school children of whom majority are girls, huge backlog on provision of missing facilities in schools, and declining quality of education. Girls’ net enrolment rate stands at around 50 percent only, which is much lower when compared to that of the male net enrolment rate. Similarly, he added, Pakistan has the world’s third-highest number of new-born deaths (194,000 in 2010). The maternal mortality in rural areas is nearly twice as in urban areas of Pakistan, i.e., 319 women out of 100,000 die due to pregnancy related complications in rural areas in contrast to 175 in urban areas.
Mr. Muhammad Qazilbash, Country Director, Oxfam said, it is discouraging to note that Pakistan is performing abysmally on most of the indicators of gender justice, Pakistan ranks 141st on the Global Gender Gap Index. He said gender responsive financing of education can contribute towards establishment of social justice and systems based on equity.
In order to address the identified challenges, the research report offers an unprecedented review of the existing system of taxation, and expenditure regime in Pakistan and identifies gaps in resource mobilization at national, provincial and local tiers. The study also proposes avenues for using resource generation and utilization as a tool to address the inequalities in Pakistan.