Empowerment comes in many forms. But the most important form is political empowerment. The empowerment of women and girls is a goal that is being pursued around the globe. And one means of ensuring that women have access to economic resources to support family needs, is through government programs aimed at empowering women.
Many programs providing social norms of gender equality through government programs have been successful, both in terms of achieving goals and in terms of reducing poverty and gender gaps. Some programs aim at more immediate changes. For example, programs providing cash transfers have had great success in empowering women in particular. As a result of these cash transfers, women can improve their standard of living.
The provision of cash transfers however, is not enough. Empowerment has to be accompanied by policies and programs that support and promote gender equality. In the context of development finance, gender equality is also an end-point to be achieved in terms of macro-level policies. For example, a program providing cash transfers can itself be a micro-level program focused on empowering women at the community level.
For example, programs providing social protection programmes and food aid can be empowering for women at the community level. The introduction of such programmes is accompanied by policies encouraging equal participation in economic decision-making at the community level. Such policies encourage women to participate in economic decisions that affect them. At the same time, these policies to support and promote gender equality at the community level. A very good example is the Pakistani program that provides all families with steady income through various social protection programmes. Programs providing social protection and food aid can also empower women through the establishment of different institutions that give them access to funds for their day-to-day expenses.
The social protection programme in Pakistan is yet another example of a programme cash for women that enables them to choose and employ their own skills. In this case too, the provision of a consistent source of income complements the empowerment provided. As in the previous two cases, this will strengthen women’s empowerment. In addition, it also encourages women’s economic growth. Moreover, social protection programmes create a favorable environment for the achievement of economic objectives by ensuring a better standard of living for the people receiving the benefits.
Since cash transfer is directly related to the empowerment of women, policies providing assistance through social protection programmes also have a dual benefit for women at the community level. Firstly, the provision of cash help encourages women to enter the workplace. Secondly, the provision of cash transfers helps stabilize the employment of women leaving the family household. Finally, women have greater control over their economic resources in terms of using these resources to purchase essential goods and services needed for their empowerment.
Apart from financial aid, there are other forms of support specifically meant for women that contribute towards women’s empowerment. For instance, scholarships and grants are the common forms of financial help for women. They facilitate women to gain a position in the community or in the private sector, with the aim of empowering them and helping them economically. In addition to these, there are numerous instances of women being empowered through community-based programmes. For example, a program that provides cash transfers to women from small economically vulnerable families boosts women’s empowerment because the women get cash to buy basic needs such as fuel, food, and education.
To provide genuine and comprehensive social norms of gender equality and social protection for women in Pakistan, the government should take active participation. It should start implementing its policies from ground level. This can be done by involving the local communities in the decision-making process. At the grass-roots level, women can be taught about the value of gender justice and its role in building productive social safety. As a result, they will become socially empowered.