Dynamic Pakistani women have influenced the history of their country – from Fatima Jinnah, instrumental to Pakistan’s movement for independence; to Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country; to women leaders in all sectors, including politics, medicine, business, education, the media, and civil society. However, millions of Pakistani women are still unable to realize their full potential.
Due to several factors, for example, there are a limited number of female employees in the workforce. As the World Economic Forum 2012 Gender Gap Report illustrates, Pakistan ranks well below the world average in health, political engagement, economic opportunities, and educational opportunities available to girls and women. This reality has a negative impact on Pakistani families, Pakistani companies, and ultimately the Pakistani economy and society.
Recognizing that Pakistan’s stability and future prosperity depend on a robust economy in which women play a key role, the State Department and American University (AU), in collaboration with the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN), established the US-Pakistan Women’s Council.
The Council, launched by Secretary Clinton on September 24, 2012, and supported by Secretary Kerry, links U.S. and Pakistani corporations, universities, and other supporters to initiatives that advance economic opportunities for women in Pakistan. The Council’s focus areas are education, employment, and entrepreneurship.
The Council also plays an important role in building people-to-people ties between Americans and Pakistanis, which is a key element of the overall bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. The Council’s work advances a number of mutual goals, including promoting a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan and making “trade, not just aid” a reality.
The Council’s Executive Committee members are AU President Neil Kerwin, AU Dean of the School of International Service James Goldgeier, Ambassador Robin Raphel, Ambassador Cathy Russell of the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Initiatives, and Nabeela Khatak of OPEN. There is an available seat for a corporate member.
The Council’s Secretariat is based at American University.Executive Director Sarah Peck is a diplomat with regional experience. The office has a program coordinator, a research assistant, and two interns. The Secretariat is supported by the Office of Pakistan Affairs at the State Department, the administration and staff of American University, and economic officers at the U.S. Mission in Pakistan. The Council also expects to hire an additional program coordinator to be based in Islamabad in 2013.