Women and devolution

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW will women be affected by the devolution process under way in line with the Eighteenth Amendment? The relative silence from them – compared to the deafening noise from the pro and anti HEC lobbies – suggests that women are not concerned.

Devolution will not affect women in the same way as is the case with higher education which has been exclusively in the federal domain until now. Women’s development has been as much a provincial issue – if not more – as it has been the concern of the federal government. Senator Raza Rabbani, who is supervising the implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment, is reported to have announced that the Ministry of Women Development (MoWD) will be devolved in the third stage, that is by June.

Few would quarrel with this move because having a multiplicity of bodies to do one job does not prove to be very productive like the proverbial excess of cooks who spoil the broth. Every province already has its Department of Women Development (DWD) entrusted with the “vital role of catalyst, lobbyist and influencer to attain the prime objective of women empowerment through gender mainstreaming”. This is how the Sindh DWD defines its mission. True, the provincial bodies may not have performed as well as they are expected to. But that only highlights the need to look into and rectify the factors that handicap them.

Click here to read the article on Dawn

13 thoughts on “Women and devolution

  1. Whether its a question of high eduction or devolution of any ministry including that of Women Development, i think it is also linked to the basic question of provincial autonomy and we have to give it a chance. All this is part of the 18th amendment. The Parliament had asked for suggestions, comments, opinions and proposals from all segment of society. In a country where we hardly have basic education we are discussing higher education. In a society where women hardly have any rights what if we have centeralised ministry of women development or in the provinces. But after develoution we can make provinces more accountable. Regds, mazhar abbas

    1. @Mazhar. Talking about education I agree that it is strange that we are so concerned about higher education and wilfully neglect school education where the base lies. But we should not fail to address higher education as well on the ground that it can wait until the primary sector is set right. If we try to do that it will be too late. Actually what is needed is a balance between the various sub sectors which unfortunately has been missing all along.

  2. It's not that women will not be affected, it's just that perhaps women understood the implications of Provincial autonomy and devolution better.
    However, unless all of us participate in the political process and "watch", and make demands of our provincial assemblies, and make elected reps answerable, we will not get far, and the rot will continue to grow.
    But it will make our access easier to the seat of Power and hence working with them may become doable if we are really committed to improving our society & Province.

  3. I totally support the devolution of the MoWD. There will definitely be procedural issues and problems, but institutional and systemic change takes time. The ethical principle of devolution and provincial autonomy should not be set aside over technicalities. Nuzhat is right about access increasing by proximity to seat of power, and about greater ability to hold governance accountable. The idea that the federal capital is somehow cleaner, less corrupt, more coherent, more representative, more capable than provinces is absurd. And positioning women's interest as in conflict with progressive goals is not just strategically flawed, but also incorrect in fact. Provinces may have lesser capacity because of historic marginalization from substantive decision-making, so then we work on increasing that capacity. I for one am willing to volunteer, I know others will as well.

  4. dear zubeiida mustafa,
    one of the problems of having a federation in the strict sense of the word is the devolution of power to the provinces/states.in the united states even the laws in different states are different-the 'federal government' can not legistlate on these matters-the federating state specifically gives certain powers to the federal government and keeps the rest to itself-you will surprised to know that usa every state has a different criminal and civil code and laws about matrimony and alimony etc etc.that is why in usa people live together and never marry because of alimoney.so either you can have a strong centre and weak 'states' or vice versa.samin khan,barrister-at-law

  5. refreshing to know that these things are in discussion; i agree that this body must remain autonomous of the government with the mandate to institute independent investigations, and to summon witnesses;
    patriarchy embedded in religious traditions is particulary intractable; one hopes the women's movement in pakistan receives broad-based support from other resistance movements and of liberal men's organisations.

  6. I have perused the article, women and devolution, by Zubeida mustafa. There exists the need of an autonomous body to monitor and address the problems confronting the women in Pakistan The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Only devolution of some things does not matter, it is the successful implementation of a program which works. To my mind devolution of powers would go a long way in addressing the problems confronting the populace in general and the poor women in particular.

    Abdul Wahid Shabab

    Absar Turbat

    E- mail: wahidshabab@gmail.com

  7. Actually I was quite glad that devolution of the MoWD is happening; certainly there will be immense problems, but the provincial roles of relevant officials will be strengthened as they 'learn the ropes' . Women have been marginalised so far: we look forward to the day when provincial MoWDs will provide full suppot to women to grow and achieve their full potential; including, as Zubeida has mentioned , in complete implementation of CEDAW.

    Right now, few ordinary women can even approach the federal MoWD; hopefully, provincial MoWDs will facilitate their easier access, and so enable them to play more active roles. It goes without saying that all this can only be achieved if twe have consistent policies and the provinces get sufficient finances. Hilda Saeed

  8. Objectivity is required when discussing institutional mechanisms. The MoWD is the national focal machinery which brings together cohesiveness on women's issues at national level. Devolving the national focal machinery is not in sync with UN measures outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action, which requires all governments to set up national focal machinery. How will international commitments be reported on and by whom.

  9. Will each province report on its progress or which government minstry will combine provincial reports etc for reporting for eg on CEDAW etc. __What of the shareholding of the First Women's Bank of which MoWD has a 19 % share-will this be distributed to the provinces?____

  10. As for the NCSW the confusion is whether it should be a watchdog or a bureaucracy? it wants autonomy and yet wishes to take on the mantle of MoWD. Given the presence of more than 70 women Parliamentarians in the NA and several hundred in the provinces, why are we bent upon creating parallel institutions in this day and age where more expenditure/government machinery is required.__24 women in the NCSW what doesthis mean in terms of expenditure?____

  11. Will provinces be making their own policies or will we have a national policies as before and who will do this?
    If NCSW wants to don the MoWD mantle, does this mean provincial NCSW chapters and again more parrallel institutions?

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