International Women’s Day was an opportunity to highlight the important role that women play all over the world, including in Australia and Pakistan. The world today sees women excelling in all sectors of our societies contributing, as half of the population, to science and innovation, to economic development and national leadership, to exploring the universe as astronauts, to excellence in the arts and sport. Worldwide we are seeing more and more women play their part for the good of their communities, their countries and for the world. From women activists in war-torn Syria demanding political reforms, to women campaigning for the right to drive themselves. These women, and the men who share their views and lend their support, are catalysts of positive change who transcend obstacles along the path towards equality for women and men, for boys and girls. Pakistan has some examples of women leaders in their fields who inspire not just their nation but the whole world; women who are wonderful ambassadors for Pakistan. From Malala Yousafzai, who fights for the education of girls everywhere, to the courageous mountain climber Samina Baig and UN Women Ambassador and artist Muniba Mazari, to film maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who brought home two Oscars and six Emmy Awards, and the young Pakistani women who speak to international audiences on the theme of young women leading transition in societies. Equality for women and girls is a core foreign policy priority for Australia, and a cross cutting element of Australia’s global aid program, including in Pakistan. Granting women and girls their human right of equality is vital for economic growth, poverty reduction, inclusive development and security, particularly in our region.
Pakistan is committed to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include a goal (Goal 5) dedicated to gender equality. As a long term development partner to Pakistan, Australia is supporting the Pakistan Government, business and civil society in working towards this goal. We are delivering programs focused on skills development and women’s entrepreneurship in education and agriculture, creating new full-time jobs for women and increasing the income of rural women. This week the Australian High Commission and the Pakistan Cricket Board with the support of Serena Hotels are hosting the second annual PCB-AHC Girls’ Cricket Cup. Cricket provides a wonderful vehicle for promoting gender equality in sport – and beyond. The competition aims to give girls from underprivileged backgrounds the opportunity to participate in a key sport not easily accessible for girls in Pakistan. Education and training is vital for achieving equality of opportunity for all. The Australia Awards scholarship program is giving equal numbers of Pakistani men and women the professional skills required to advance their careers. Graduates join a global network of Australian alumni to maintain linkages with their Australian networks, as well as their networks with fellow alumni from other countries in the region. In Pakistan, the Australian Alumni Women in Leadership Network provides a platform for women alumni to promote education opportunities to other women and to support one another to fully realise their potential to contribute to society. In 2017, coinciding with Pakistan’s 70th year, women remain the largest untapped reservoir of talent and economic productivity in the world. By investing in women and girls all countries, including Australia and Pakistan, can accelerate successful and peaceful social, economic and political development. To this end, Australia will continue to support Pakistan in striving to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, by encouraging the involvement of women, as equals, in all sectors of society.