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The Importance of Gender Inclusion and Gender-Responsiveness in ICT and Broadband policymaking in Pakistan

This blog was written by Tayyaba Iftikhar, Assistant Director of Public Relations Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) in collaboration with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) organized a Digital Gender Sensitization Workshop. The event focused on gender inclusion and gender-responsiveness in ICTs and broadband policies with a particular emphasis on digital empowerment of women and girls in Pakistan.

Mr. Mohsin Mushtaq, Additional Secretary (Incharge) IT&T, was the chief guest at the workshop. Chairman PTA, Maj. General Amir Azeem Bajwa (R); Member C&E PTA, Dr. Khawar Sidique Khokhar, senior officers from Frequency Allocation Board (FAB), CEOs of USF, Ignite, Jazz and representatives from mobile operators & members of international organizations, and civil society attended the event.

Speaking at the event, the chief guest praised PTA’s proactive and inclusive approach towards digital gender connectivity. He stated that the Government of Pakistan and Ministry of Information and Telecommunications are engaging with global and regional organizations to work to close the digital gender gap in Pakistan.

The Chairman of the PTA stated that PTA is committed to ensuring access to all and improving digital gender inclusion in ICTs in Pakistan. It is striving to develop a digital strategy that will bring together key stakeholders of Pakistan’s gender mainstreaming efforts. The highlight of the event was the session on ‘Women Leading the Tech’ chaired by Chairperson Competition Commission of Pakistan, Ms. Rahat Kunain Hassan and eminent Pakistani female leaders as panelists.

The panelists included: Founder & CEO,Katalyst Labs, Ms. Jehan Ara; Country Head, Code for Pakistan, Ms. Samina Rizwan; Executive Director, Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education (PAGE), Ms. Fajer Rabia Pasha and CEO National Forum of Women with Disabilities in Pakistan (NFWWD), Ms. Abia Akram. The panelists emphasised the importance of creating an environment that gives women the support to excel and as a result propels the growth of the entire technology ecosystem.

A4AI’s Regional Head of Asia Pacific, Anju Mangal and Regional Head of Africa, Onica Makwakwa highlighted the importance of meaningful connectivity, affordability, broadband policies and rural broadband connectivity to address the digital gender gap in Pakistan. They acknowledged the Gender and ICT committee of PTA, Ms Malahat Obaid, Ms Rabeeya Parvez and Ms Shafaq Syed Karim and the Assistant Director for partnership, Waqas Hassan for spearheading the efforts on the digital gender inclusion strategy.

UNESCO presentation focused on the development of a strong strategy for digital inclusion. During the workshop, emphasis was placed on inclusive policy reforms and multisectoral collaborations towards the objective of closing the digital gender divide.

UNESCO, PTA and A4AI will work closely to organize stakeholder workshops and consultations in other regions of Pakistan with a special focus on bridging the digital divide to support the development of the digital gender inclusion strategy. The workshops will ensure a multistakeholder approach with the goal to invite women and girls, persons with disabilities, youth and rural and remote community leaders. A4AI and PTA will also invite civil societies, private and public sector, academia, telecommunication and ICT experts to include measurable objectives and targets. The Digital Gender Inclusion Strategy will aim to have an implementation plan as well as a monitoring and evaluation system to ensure that leaders and policymakers are accountable for its gender equality progress.

A4AI and PTA partnership will also work together to raise the bar on the quality of Internet access by establishing meaningful connectivity targets for the country.

The regional heads of Asia-Pacific and Africa also had the opportunity to meet with multiple key stakeholders in Pakistan during the four day trip – includingUniversal Service Fund, Jazz, Telenor, Comsat, Pakistan Internet Society and other telecommunication and ICT experts to promote joint activities to expand access to affordable internet services in Pakistan, particularly for marginalized groups in rural and remote communities, women and girls and persons with disabilities, as a part of this partnership.

A4AI and PTA look forward to continuing to work towards our common goal of meaningful connectivity throughout Pakistan.