In Pakistan, women are seldom included in important decisions. The exclusion comes at the back of their weaker social status despite having a legal claim on the property of their husband, father, brothers and other relation. On most occasions women were not allowed to exercise this legal claim as their male family members transferred women’s property among themselves without their knowledge through the services of the local land clerk. Now with the increased usage of national identity card such transfers have become more difficult. So Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME) conducted a research study titled ‘exploring the role of computerized national identity card (CNIC) (Citizens’ registration card) in securing women’s property rights in Pakistan’ to understand the impact of CNIC on women’s ability to acquire property and improve their stature in the society.
In 2008 the federal government of Pakistan introduced a social protection scheme called Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) for the poorest of the poor. Under this scheme a monthly stipend was given to the female member of a family and one of the pre-requisites of being eligible for BISP was possession of a CNIC. This study used applied qualitative method of research using different data collection strategies and is based on case studies of Aurat Foundation, interviews with BISP beneficiaries and available data.
According to the study the possession of CNIC among BISP beneficiaries has improved their status in their households. Therefore during marriages, inheritance and entrepreneurial activities their presence is felt and their property rights are strengthened. Furthermore based on the findings of the research study it can be said that BISP has created a space for women leadership among social circles and an opportunity to socially empower them. Lastly this program has provided women with the opportunity of freedom of movement and an active role in the civic life. For this study the author searched a direct impact of the increasing CNICs on women’s property rights in revenue offices and courts especially in family courts cases. Data reveals that women ‘identity’ is the prime one which helps in the social empowerment of women and ensuring strong property rights.
Towards the end of the study some of the problems in BISP were highlighted. According to the author the major problem regarding BISP are the execution or operational level inefficiencies of this program.
According to the study BISP should join hands with other stakeholders and civil society to improve women citizens’ registration and could use its financial granting muscle in improving such enrolment. Polio vaccination could also be linked with incentives offered by BISP. This program could effectively pave way for improving women’s social space and nourishment of their social status through focusing on strengthening their property rights.
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Ali Salman, Executive Director, PRIME (Cell: 0301 845 1179)