Culturally embedded mistreatment of women and girls has earned Pakistan a reputation as one of the world’s worst nations in which to be female.
The Obama administration, however, is setting out to reverse that cultural phenomenon, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
Indeed, the administration is deploying a team of experts to “travel extensively” throughout Pakistan to assess existing U.S. efforts to reverse “gender disparity” and to collect data about ongoing gender-related abuses and discrimination.
The gender team likewise will propose steps for future U.S.-funded actions.
This U.S. Agency for International Development endeavor comes at a time when human rights activists – including some Muslims themselves – have come under fire for speaking out against the pervasive mistreatment of women across the Islamic world.
Such criticism has resulted in a simultaneous backlash from the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which succeeded in shutting down a University of Michigan, Dearborn, screening of “Honor Diaries.”
The film features nine Muslim women who contend “honor” killings, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, restriction of movement and denial of education are rooted in the culture of Muslim-majority societies.
USAID’s Economic Growth & Agriculture, or EGA, office currently targets public, private and civil-society efforts “to expand economic opportunities” for Pakistani farmers and other small- and medium-sized business.
EGA works with the government of Pakistan to alleviate poverty via the nation’s agricultural sector, which it deems a priority area that could “improve the lives of Pakistanis,” according to a bid request that WND located via routing database research.
Increased access to credit and “improved delivery of financial services” are among the numerous relief mechanisms that USAID has leveraged in its attempts to improve the quality of life in Pakistan, the document notes.
The Obama administration in 2012 developed an ambitious organizational and world-wide policy via USAID “to reduce gender inequality and to enable girls and women to realize their rights, determine their life outcomes, and influence decision-making in households, communities and societies.”
The Pakistan-specific “gender assessment” will examine whether the agency’s efforts thus far have produced anticipated results. Likewise, the contractor hired for the initiative will offer recommendations on how the administration can more effectively incorporate gender-equality measures “throughout all of its USAID Pakistan programming,” according to the Request for Quotes.
The recommendations may apply to all USAID endeavors in this predominantly Muslim nation, regardless of program focus. The agency says it is equally open to proposed programs specific to altering cultural patterns of discriminating against women.
USAID did not disclose the endeavor’s estimated cost.
The agency separately launched the Central Asian Republics Energy Links Project, which will pay a contractor up to $25 million to assist the region’s energy sector – including Pakistan’s – which the agency claims is “crumbling and in danger of collapse,” a program solicitation says.
U.S.-financed consultants will help authorities in the region to “improve the legal and regulatory framework and investment climate” in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The project likewise seeks to improve energy company governance and improve the commercialization of the corporations.
USAID’s stated goal is to increase the ability of those corporations to “provide year-round, reliable power to their citizens,” according to the solicitation.