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26 Jan 2022 | HKPL

A step towards mainstreaming gender equality and social inclusion for transformative change

Kosar Bano & Syed Muhammad Abubakar

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The training workshop on GESI for transformative change included representatives from government departments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community organizations, and the Gilgit-Baltistan Disability Forum. (Photo: Nisar Ahmed/WWF-Pakistan)

In collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan), our HKPL Initiative organized a capacity-building training workshop on gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) for transformative change. The aim of the workshop, organized on 17−18 November 2021 in Gilgit, Pakistan, was to sensitize participants to GESI perspectives and frameworks and enable them to analyze their institutional policies and structures using a GESI lens. Another objective was to encourage collective efforts at various levels of governance for meaningful empowerment of women and vulnerable groups in Gilgit-Baltistan.GESI is important to enhance access to livelihood opportunities and services for women and marginalized groups. In Gilgit-Baltistan, sociocultural and religious norms limit women to traditional roles. The training focused on identifying and addressing the barriers and challenges that women, the poor and excluded communities face in policies, institutional systems, work environments, social and cultural settings, programme and budget formulation, service delivery, monitoring and evaluation, and research. The participants included representatives from government departments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community organizations, and the Gilgit-Baltistan Disability Forum.

The workshop began with opening remarks by Kulsoom Ilyas, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Gilgit Baltistan; Dilshad Bano, Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Gilgit Baltistan; and Sosan Aziz, Member for National Commission on the Status of Women, Gilgit Baltistan. Dilshad Bano called for making the tourism sector in Gilgit Baltistan inclusive and beneficial for mountain communities. Kalsoom  Ilyas emphasized the need for awareness and interventions to make policies more inclusive.

Mohammad Ismail, Country Representative – Pakistan, ICIMOD spoke about ICIMOD’s gender policy, its engagements for advancing social inclusion through research, development, and training, and emphasized the importance of GESI integration in partner organizations to achieve common goals. Kosar Bano, Gender and Adaptation Specialist, ICIMOD spoke about the importance of GESI inclusion in various organizations in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The participants showed keen interest in learning more about the GESI concept for application in their daily lives. They were asked to complete the social identity and personal identity wheel activities, through which they shared views about their own identities and discussed privileges and challenges linked to their identities. Furthermore, information gathered through the evaluation form revealed that GESI was a new concept for most participants, and they appreciated the gender and disability components in it.

One participant, Shakeel Ahmed said that he prefers his identity linked with his language. Though it excluded him on some occasions, he felt privileged and accepted among his native language speakers. Another participant, Qandeel Zameer noted that she faces challenges while trying to maintain her own identity and that her efforts are not reflected in her current identity, influenced as it is by her father’s and husband’s identities. Irshad Hussain Kazmi, a differently abled participant, said that his entire community is referred to as ‘the blind people’ instead of by their respective names. He explained how he has used this identity given by society as a source of strength and has now become an activist for the visually impaired.

Responding to these reflections, Kosar Bano, Gender and Adaptation Specialist, ICIMOD informed the participants that the workshop will help them better understand current dynamics in society and develop strategies to overcome these challenges through sharing and sensitization. The workshop participants were also asked to reflect on the power and privilege dynamics in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan – language, sect, ethnicity, access, and decision making – and to document untold stories.

On the second day, participants were engaged in a brainstorming activity to understand their views on GESI mainstreaming. They were divided in groups to discuss the challenges related to GESI mainstreaming at each stage of the project cycle and ways to address them Participants were also asked to undertake gender analysis of their institutions and suggested improvements. Following this, participants came up with action plans where they committed to bring about change through implementation of GESI approaches and frameworks.

In his concluding remarks, Nazir Ahmad, Deputy Speaker of Gilgit Baltistan Assembly, endorsed the reflections of participants and acknowledged that prevailing sociocultural norms are gender-biased and suggested the restructuring of existing social structures and strict implementation of laws. He highlighted the government’s resolve in achieving gender equality and creating a more equitable society.


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