ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister Asad Umar launched the National Gender Policy Framework for Pakistan on the occasion of International Women’s Day. In his welcome note, the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission informed that 2022 has been declared as the “year of female employees” and multiple initiatives are being planned to make public sector workplaces conducive for women to work. He said that Gender Accelerator is being established at the Planning Commission manned by gender experts to help mainstream gender in all policies and programs. Asad Umar, in his inaugural speech, reiterated the government’s commitment to closing the gender gap and providing equal opportunities to women in all spheres of life. He said that the policy talks about instituting governance mechanisms to ensure that all committed is rolled out effectively for empowering the women of our country. He said that as Pakistan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic garnered international praise, we fully recognize and acknowledge that our health response was delivered by a health workforce which comprises 76% females. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Shabnum Sarfraz, Member Planning Commission said that the National Gender Policy framework stands as the culmination of nationwide consultations steered by the Ministry of Planning Development & Special Initiatives. The framework was developed in active coordination with the MOHR and all key institutions, while engaging federal and provincial stakeholders, development partners, sectoral and subject experts, meaningfully engaging the youth, and deliberating on the strategic priorities for closing the gender gap in education, employment and making workplaces conducive for women across the country. The focus was also kept on promoting the engagement of women in decision-making and instituting gender-transformative structures. The launch was attended by a powerful panel of keynote speakers. Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister and Federal Minister, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Ministry. In her keynote address, she stressed the importance of gender equality in ending poverty and sustainable development. She elaborated on the gender mainstreaming within the Ehsaas Program and the impact achieved to date. While appreciating the launch of the framework by the Planning Commission, she offered all support and access to the EHSAAS data bank. Dr. Shireen M. Mazari, the Federal Minister of Human Rights shared the critical human rights initiatives that the current government has steered and informed about the multiple legislative instruments that have been introduced to achieve gender parity and end gender-based violence, discrimination, and oppression. Lt General Nigar Johar Khan, Colonel Commandant of Army Medical Corps and Surgeon General Pakistan Army also spoke on breaking barriers and how women can pursue leadership journeys. She listed the five key ingredients that women leaders must have as faith, integrity, resilience, discipline and humility. Representatives from all provincial planning and development departments shared their commitments to advancing the women and girl development agenda on behalf of their respective governments. Federal Secretary Ministry of Planning, Mr. Aziz Uqaili said that in order to support the provinces with specific gender-focused programs and reflect their commitments in this direction, the federal government will be awarding additional federal monies. The final session was chaired by Sania Alam, representative of the national youth council who placed her deep appreciation on the process adopted for developing the gender framework. She informed that the council was closely engaged and the framework brings a lot of hope to the young girls with aspirations to advance in their lives and contribute to economic prosperity. More than 250 dignitaries including Federal Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries. Members of the national and provincial assembly including Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, Fouzia Wahab, Shandana Gulzar, Zille Huma, Sania Kamran, and Ms. Fouzia Arshad, Dr Nousheen Hamid, Andaleeb Abbas. In addition, the event hosted civil servants, federal gender focal persons at the ministries, members of the civil society, NGOs and development partners. The country representatives of UN Agencies, foreign diplomats placed their pledges in support of the national gender priority agenda and for women to get equal opportunities to realize their full potential. These included Bakhtiar Khadirove, Country Representative UNFPA, Ms. Aliona Niculita, Deputy Resident Representative UNDP, Ms. Aida Girma- Melaku, Country Representative UNICEF and senior officials from UN WFP, ILO, UNESCO, IOM, UNOPS, UN Women, UNIDO, FCDO, German Embassy, Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The National Gender Policy Framework Launch is a historic moment in Pakistan’s journey towards creating a gender-equal society that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and free of all biases which also resonates with Agenda 2030. It states “the achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities”.