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First Lady Samina Arif Alvi on Saturday said that special focus is required to ensure that female inhabitants of Pakistan’s underprivileged areas are provided with equal rights that are available to residents of the country’s developed parts in order to fully achieve the goal of women’s empowerment.

Addressing the ceremony of the 13th LadiesFund Women’s Award at the Governor House, she praised the efforts of women’s empowerment activists who despite facing difficulties have been continuing their struggle so that the country’s female population is provided with health care, educational facilities and inheritance rights.

She said that in the present era women have been shouldering responsibilities much more than male members of society, so much so that females have also been contributing towards the financial obligations of their families.

She mentioned that she has been personally involved in several initiatives to protect women’s health against the fatal disease of breast cancer, job-related training and the provision of livelihood opportunities to female members of society.

She said the government requires continued support of the relevant civil society organizations for its drive to empower women and differently-abled persons in the country.

She also said that an effort has been started to revive the Arts & Crafts Village in Islamabad, adding that the revival of the institution will go a long way to empower female artisans across the country.

She praised the services of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the newly launched Kamyab Jawan scheme of the government for playing their due part in financially empowering women.

SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir informed the audience about the new initiatives of Pakistan’s central bank for financially empowering women and making them an integral part of the mainstream financial system of the country.

He said Rs950 million has so far been disbursed under a scheme of the SBP to extend loans on easy terms to budding female entrepreneurs in the country, with 24 banks participating in the programme.

He also said the Kamyab Jawan program has also extended financial support to around 2,700 female applicants who expressed their interest in launching their own businesses.

He further said that under its aim to increase participation of women in the fiscal system of the country, the SBP will ensure that some 20 million bank accounts belonging to women are opened by next year.

Dr Baqir said the SBP has also been working on a plan to ensure that up to 20 per cent of the banking sector employees are women by 2024.

He said that efforts are under way to ensure that 10 per cent of the agents of the branchless banking system are female in order to further the goal of women’s empowerment in the country.

Justice (retd) Majida Razvi, who was awarded a lifetime achievement award on the occasion, said banking rules and regulations should be relaxed in the country to encourage the opening of bank accounts by females, considering that women in the country face difficulties in getting issued with national identity cards.

Beautician Masarrat Misbah, another winner of a lifetime achievement award, said that there should be stringent implementation of criminal laws to prevent aggression and violence against women, including acid attacks. She said acid attack survivors can be employed for telebanking services after rehabilitation.

Dawood Global Foundation President Tara Uzra Dawood informed the participants about the special philanthropic initiatives of her nonprofit over the past two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, including ration and wheelchair distribution drives for underprivileged people in the country.

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