Nutrition International’s Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM) provides technical assistance (TA) to 20 countries that have signed up to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, with UK aid from the UK government through the TAN project. In 2020, NTEAM conducted progress assessments of eight recent TA assignments, including the support to Pakistan for the development of technical food safety & halal food standards and regulations for articles of food under the Provincial Food Safety Authority (FSA) Act 2014 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The TA also aimed to encourage the uptake of these standards, and increased collaboration, at provincial and district levels, as well as targeted food processors and marketers, and indirectly the general public.
How was gender addressed in this technical assistance in Pakistan?
Once NTEAM’s gender mainstreaming tools and resources were ready for use, a subset that included a checklist for integrating gender considerations, and a Gender 101 presentation for staff, consultants and partners was chosen for piloting. As the gender mainstreaming tools were not implemented from the outset, there was some doubt as to their effect, especially with KP being a conservative province where participation of women in the food industry, and in marketing has historically been limited. NTEAM TA provider, Shahid Fazal and his team utilized the gender mainstreaming tools to review the human resource policies at the FSA, where there were no female staff. In particular, the policies were strengthened to improve equal opportunities in the recruitment process for qualified female applicants. The TA developed new service and appointment regulations for the FSA, which took the first important step of hiring five female staff: one internal auditor, two assistant directors, one food safety officer and one computer operator.
Important first steps were taken, but gender equality is a long-term challenge.
Though the FSA remains committed to equal opportunities for qualified female applicants, and the five female staff members that were hired continued in their positions, a significant proportion of the province maintains deep-rooted cultural and religious beliefs about gender norms, rendering it challenging to recruit women into the food industry and other sectors. Food safety related duties require field staff to move around the district to carry out inspections and enforcement which can sometimes be met with dispute and contention, and women can be more vulnerable to incidents of insecurity when compared to men. The FSA has therefore found it more effective to station female staff in the office or the laboratory rather than in the field. Fully realized gender equality will one day see women leading field trips, and all staff will have the analytical skills to identify gender inequalities in legislation, in policy, and in their application.
How can we ensure even broader impact on gender equality?
Despite these challenges, this step in the right direction offers hope and some momentum for future NTEAM TA in the region. Stakeholders who participated in the progress assessment were unanimous – gender mainstreaming needs to be incorporated from the very beginning of a TA assignment, to ensure more government buy-in and more concerted efforts by all stakeholders. Subsequent NTEAM TA projects underway in Pakistan and other countries have utilized the gender mainstreaming tools from the conceptualization and design stage.
Each country that NTEAM supports is at a different stage of ensuring gender equality, and these stages are not always linear. NTEAM intends to undertake a more comprehensive review of the impacts of Nutrition International’s three TA assignments in Pakistan on gender equality in the food safety sector by conducting a Case Study on Gender in Food Safety Standards in Pakistan. Gaining a more holistic understanding and deeper appreciation of the barriers to gender equality specific to Pakistan will enable NTEAM to be more effective at addressing gender gaps and mainstreaming in its work. Change is incremental, and these small steps help us work towards the larger goal.
What are the Progress Assessments?
From February to May 2020, Nutrition International’s NTEAM conducted progress assessments of eight TA assignments delivered by its TAN project. The purpose of the progress assessment was to evaluate the contribution to expected intermediate outcomes of the TA, including improved scale, coordination, quality, effectiveness, gender equality, inclusion, capacity, and capability.