A symposium titled "Strengthening Pathways into Employment for Women through Policy Making and Implementation" was held here at Government College University Lahore in partnership with the University of Sunderland, UK. Speakers engaged in a panel discussion that centered around gender-inclusive policies and strategies aimed at enhancing women's participation in the workforce.
The focal point of the panel discussion was the theme of gender-related health policies. Participants deliberated on the necessity of formulating and executing suitable organizational policies that cater to the well-being of women. A significant topic addressed was the provision of support for menstrual and (peri)menopausal concerns among female employees in Pakistan, an issue that has received inadequate attention thus far.
Justice (r) Nasira Javed Iqbal chaired the panel discussion.
Prof. Dr. Asghar Zaidi, Vice Chancellor of GCU, emphasized the crucial role that gender plays in workforce involvement. He advocated for workplaces to be accommodating of women's health needs. He also highlighted several initiatives undertaken by GCU Lahore, ranging from supplying menstrual hygiene products to offering teacher training on gender-related matters, and establishment of a Daycare Centre for staff children and a Women's Development Centre.
Dr. Shujarah Ul Durar, Associate Professor at the University of Sunderland, expressed unwavering commitment to driving positive changes in Pakistan. She acknowledged the collaborative efforts of individuals like Dr. Asghar Zaidi who share her vision.
Dr. Somia Iqtadar, Secretary General of the Pakistan Society of Internal Medicine, underscored the importance of women's representation in leadership roles. She advocated for policies that promote extended maternity leave, breastfeeding facilities, and the establishment of on-site daycare centers.
Dr. Malik Hammad Ahmad emphasized the urgency of empowering women and expediting policy implementation. He drew parallels with recent legislation in Spain that addresses menstrual needs.
Aqib Ali Shah, Deputy Director Monitoring and Enforcement at NEPRA, highlighted the value of culturally sensitive policies and recognized women's substantial contributions across diverse roles.
Junaid Illyas, CEO of Karobar Technology, stressed the significance of fair compensation, progressive career paths, and flexible work arrangements in fostering women's professional advancement.
Gynaecologist Dr. Jamshaid Freoz addressed the specific challenges faced by married women in the medical profession.
Dr. Raheem Awan, Director General of Legal Aid and Justice Authority Pakistan, referred to the historical empowerment of women in Islam and strongly advocated for women's education.
Prof. Dr. Helen Gowerek, representing Durham University, brought forward a compelling perspective by discussing the impact of menopause on women's work experiences. She called for understanding and support during this life phase, emphasizing the need to destigmatize associated challenges.
Dr. Nadeem Ahmad Bhatti, Vice Chancellor of Leads University Lahore, drew attention to Pakistan's persistent gender equality challenges. He urged a concerted effort to more inclusively integrate women into the workforce.
Ms. Sumera Khalil who is the Incharge of the GCU Women Development Centre talked about the initiatives taken at the centre and how it is not just about equal opportunities, but also about creating an enabling environment where women can thrive, excel, and contribute meaningfully in the workforce. And that's where policy making and implementation come into play. Ms. Khalil was also the host of the symposium.
Student’s perspectives were given by Naima Kazmi of GC University and Batool Wajiha of University College, London.
Additional contributors to the panel discussion included Prof. Dr. Muhammad Naveed from Bahri’s University Islamabad, Hooran Mumtaz Khatak, and Rabia Shehzad.