Women empowerment, education through
Digital literacy to revolutionise Pakistan’s economy, Shazia Marri

Islamabad : Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, Chairperson BISP, Ms. Shazia Marri on Thursday said the women empowerment and education through Digital literacy would revolutionise Pakistan’s economy and GDP at an unprecedented level.
The Federal Minister was the Chief guest on the occasion flanked by SAPM on Finance, Mr. Tariq Bajwa, CEO, NRSP Dr. Rashid Bajwa, and Chairman NRSP, Shoaib Sultan Khan.
The National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) organised the closing ceremony of national workshop to disseminate the results of Internet Dost and Internet Zabardast projects supported by the philanthropic arm of Google.
Addressing the ceremony the Minister said this is definitely a revolution that Pakistan needs through digital literacy and training on internet’s positive and constructive usage.
The SAPM after listening to the success stories of the two female beneficiaries of Internet Dost project said these two smart and talented women of Pakistan Aqsa Abbasi and Kaneez Fatima told us their success stories achieved through the initiative of Google and NRSP.
“You have changed the lives of your families and communities and I am thankful to you for coming here after facing all odds.”
“Google is the IT sector of the world and want to appreciate it’s role as it has emerged as a household name in the world,” the Minister said.
Appreciating the testimonials of the project beneficiaries, she said, “I am proud of the language of women in the testimonials which shows a visible change among them.”
She emphasised that the role of a father is crucial for building strong women to change societies. “We know to excel despite problems and challenges as the women in Pakistan face huge challenges and problems and it’s not easy for them to reach this level.”

She also requested NRSP and Google to have such ceremonies in the rural areas of project sites, so that the local masses could observe and learn from them.

Ms. Marri mentioned that the Article 34 of the Constitution says, “The state will have to bring women in all strata of state.”
The IMF study claims that Pakistan GDP may rise to 33% if women workforce number is leveled with that of men. Moreover, the ILO study claims a GDP increase upto 9% amounting $139 billion if 25% women workforce was increased as par with men, she noted.

“Women equality will benefit country’s progress and women empowerment will lead to contribution in it’s GDP growth. It’s the potential that scares a typical mindset which needs to be defeated. We need to join heads for a resilient Pakistan in all spheres,” she ended.

Rashid Bajwa, CEO NRSP in his remarks said the NRSP about a year back on February 8th, 2022 celebrated safe internet day and launched Internet Dost initiative.
“The NRSP is well aware of the digital growth and it’s access to the masses. However, mobile banking, and digital marketing have enermous opportunity for Pakistani youth to progress.”

He added that one of the objective was to reduce digital divide in the country that was huge in terms of male and female population cohorts.

“It’s the rural areas where the digital footprint is less. 50% women own a mobile phone and out of those women in Pakistan 49% are less likely to use mobile internet.”

These statistics suggest that the digital divide from geographic and digital perspective is real and the digital divide explains the risks and challenges of rural population, he said.
Mr. Bajwa underlined that it had enormous potential to increase learning, skills and business opportunities for unemployed masses.
“The NRSP trained 23,520 women in 21O districts across Pakistan alongwith more than 200 female community trainers trained. An educational curriculum was designed and contextualised to achieve the target. However, over 25,000 children were educated on safe internet use.”
The NRSP CEO said internet indeed is a tool for enhancing skills and opportunities whereas based on our digital literacy interventions we are about to introduce transfer banking in NRSP projects. “It will transform the banking set-up in Pakistan. It has been successfully piloted by NRSP. We have highest representation of the government and we extend our support for government endeavours in this area,” he said.

Tariq Bajwa, SAPM on Finance said the article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan discusses equal rights for all and Article 20 and 23 discuss full participation of women which we lack in every effort.

“The initiative is the positive step taken in order to bridge that gap as we will have to provide necessary ecosystem for a child or individual alongside premium space to incentivise that particular individual for achieving digital transformation,” he added.

“We are late in catching up the digital revolution.
For Pakistan in order to move towards digital side we need to make the digital knowledge permeate into our system. I must commend this initiative of NRSP and Google. The importance of this initiative is that it will help achieve the go of financial inclusion and awareness of women on digital global trends as it’s the foundation step. It will help facilitate learning, skill building, business, trade and connectivity.”

The SAPM conclude that if we will add more users to it the more we will contribute in making the economy at par with the world.

Timothy Tam, Government Affairs and Public Policy Lead at Google via video link from Hong Kong participated the ceremony.
He said millions of people around Asia Pacific have started using internet lifting the number to beyond 2 billion in Asia alone.

He said Google is focussed on ways to interact with people through online. Asia Pacific region uses google everyday and safeguarding the users privacy is the top priority of the Google.

“We recognize that staying safe online is a challenge and not alone the responsibility of Google or others. Google’s philanthropic arm supported NRSP to implement this initiative in 2022. It helped trained over 20,000 students as online experts and end gender divide on internet though training of 21,000 plus women. We continue to educate our young internet users to be internet kind, smart, brave and supportive.”

It’s one of our key priorities to promote digital skilling as Google awarded 15,000 scholarships to women and uneducated youth to end unemployment gap and promote digital economy in Pakistan with the collaboration of IRM and iGnite Pakistan.

“Pakistan has faced significant growth in digital transformation. Digital technologies to create 9.7 trillion rupees capital in Pakistan by 2030,” he said.

Two different documentaries were also presented on success stories of Internet Dost and Internet Zabardast, Storykit prepared by NRSP. The Storykit was a story telling practice module to educate students on internet safe usage. Moreover, success stories of two women beneficiaries were presented by the beneficiaries themselves that received huge acclaim from the Chief guest and the participants.

Suhail Bin Aziz Assistant Educational Advisor National Curriculum Council, Federal Ministry of Education informed that there is equal representation of experts from all provinces in the National Curriculum Programme, where all the religions existing in Pakistan are given representation.
According to the constitution, no child can be given such education that is against his religion, he added.
Aziz said the curriculum prepared had added things that can lead children towards entrepreneurship. Moreover, teachers have been trained on the technology, besides more than 32,000 children also benefited from it.

The Ministry has partnered with Google to promote technology and is focusing on teacher training, adding, “The day is not far when we will see a digitally trending Pakistan.”

Chairman NRSP, Shoaib Sultan in his vote of thanks said that the endeavours of enhancing communities resilience and preparedness without active participation of the local masses.
He said during his seven decades long journey of community development, he learnt a lot from the local knowledge and believe that unanimous efforts sinking in with the indigenous mindset can help better and result oriented interventions. He also wished luck to the NRSP team for future endeavors.