Evidence into policy

Developing and implementing gender sensitive policies and programmes in Pakistan

By 08/09/2014

This blog is part of a showcase of exhibits from South Asian think tanks participating in the Think Tank Initiative’s Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) programme. You may view other entries on the PEC Showcase Overview Page. 

Several commitments have been made in Pakistan to develop and implement gender sensitive policies and programmes but the results are far from satisfactory. One reason is the lack of authentic and evidence based research on how both men and women respond to the social and economic conditions in the country, and the extent to which they have been affected by policies aimed towards poverty reduction.

With changing patterns of economic production and social reproduction, there is a need to understand traditional as well as new roles of women in societies such as in Pakistan. In developing countries, the phenomenon of female-headed households is new, largely unexplored and under researched. Moreover, there is a lack of understanding of the socioeconomic characteristics of female-headed households (FHHs) in order to influence development planning and the formulation of gender sensitive policies. Information on income and expenditure patterns, social service delivery, education and health status, micro credit facilities, and their utilization by FHHs is almost non-existent. This study is a step towards filling the vast gap in such information.

The social, political and economic transformation in Pakistan has profoundly affected gender roles in the country. General perception is that abject poverty forces male headship into economic migration either from rural to urban areas, or within rural areas, and in some instances beyond Pakistan’s borders. In cases like this, when women assume the head of households, they not only manage the household but are also given the status of headship which entitles them to decision-making on all household matters. This change is contrary to all established patriarchal norms that restrict women to a powerless position. Nevertheless, this does not imply an over-all improvement in the role and status of women in Pakistan – who, predominantly continue to face subjugation and exploitation.

This study is based on data analysis with which is possible to identify changes overtime in the behavior, and the pattern of variables that contribute to the overall well-being of FHHs in Pakistan. The baseline study was conducted in 2009-10, by the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), to provide the basis of the information about female headed households in Pakistan such as their living standards and incidence of poverty in comparison with male headed households. 

The rationale of this study is to examine changes from baseline survey in the socio-economic characteristics of households headed by women, changes in their living standards and incidences of poverty, and to identify new contextual factors that impact FHHs, their empowerment and decision making authority along with the role of social assistance programs as a support system for FHHs living below the poverty line. 

Showcase exhibit: SPDC’s study on Female Headed Households (FHH) in Pakistan


This post has been produced as part of the Think Tank Initiative’s Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) programme. However, these are the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of TTI. You can find all ongoing outputs related to this project via the PEC mini-site on Research to Action. To get updates from the PEC programme and be part of the discussion sign-up to our RSS or email updates. You can also follow our progress via Twitter using the following hashtag #ttipec.

Feature image courtesy of DFID, Flickr.com.