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EU ambassador stresses gender equality

ISLAMABAD, MAY 01 (DNA) – Ambassador of European Union Jean Francois Cautain has said Pakistan’s exports to the EU have increased by 38.32% during 2013-16 adding gender equality is also included in priority areas of the EU in Pakistan.

He said, gender equality and the fight of violence against women is in the core of our EU policies in Europe and in our partner countries.

 We as EU have defined in 2016 a new Gender action plan in order to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in Europe and around the globe.

The thematic priorities are physical and psychological integrity, promotion of economic and social rights and strengthening girls’ and women’s voice and participation.

The EU ambassador expressed these views in an exclusive interview to DNA. This is his first-ever interview to a Pakistani news agency after assuming charge of EU ambassador in Pakistan.

The ambassador said Pakistani exporters are benefitting significantly from GSP+, but is a lot more to achieve in this regard.

The ambassador further said, the business potential is remarkably high. “I am very satisfied that textile exports are doing well but I always emphasize that Pakistan needs to diversify. And for this purpose, GSP+ offers a great opportunity”.

He added, Pakistan being an agricultural country can enhance export of its agricultural product availing the GSP+ [fruits and vegetables for example]. The EU has helped Pakistan improve the export of seafood and kinnow through its Trade Related Technical Assistance.

I hope that the exporters, with the support of the Government of Pakistan, will domestically invest in new products in value addition to maximize the increase in exports he added.

To a question about women rights, the ambassador said, the promotion of women’ rights and empowerment is an important aspect in all our development programmes in Pakistan.

“We are already partnering with the Government of Pakistan at federal and provincial levels in different initiatives, i.e. in rural development, education, TVET and nutrition”.

He said EU appreciates the initiatives the Government of Pakistan, the Parliament, the provincial assemblies, the Commission on the Status of Women and civil society organizations have pushed forward, like the new law on violence against women that was passed last year and recently the inauguration of Pakistan’s first Violence against Women Centre in Multan.

“We are ready to support the government with other programmes that are planned as we strongly believe that unleashing the potential of all women in Pakistan will bring more prosperity and stability”.

While replying a question about education in Pakistan the ambassador said,” let’s be clear, first of all, Education is first the priority of the Government of Pakistan. The EU is here to support Government’s efforts. Indeed we have been supporting education in Pakistan since 1998”.

He said, currently we have education programmes in Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan where we are supporting the provincial governments to provide quality education to all boys and girls.

It is true that in Pakistan education provision is based on class system, with the poorest of the poor are enrolled in  Madrasas, lower income group children are enrolled in public sector schools, middle class children are enrolled at low cost private schools and more expensive private schools cater for the elite class.

There are still 22.6 million out-of-school children, and educational inequalities in Pakistan, based on wealth, but also on many other factors, such as gender, disability, geographical location, are among the highest in the world.

The EU is supporting the governments of Sindh, KP and Balochistan to address inequalities in education, by, for example, focusing on girls’ education in all three provinces and providing stipends to out-of-school children in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It is clear that in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal on education in Pakistan, increased efforts are needed to address inequalities in education and to ensure that all children have access to quality education, he concluded. =DNA

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