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Jerome Scheltens, Knowledge and Innovation Advisor at the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), travelled to Lahore from 22 and 24 January 2018 to conduct the latest of a series of policy dialogue training events in context of the INSPIRED+ project.

These training sessions are customised by NIMD to strengthen participants’ knowledge of six key areas: Understanding dialogue as differentiated from debate; stakeholder mapping which reconciles the twin challenges of ensuring efficiency and inclusiveness during the dialogue process; internal preparedness; consensus building on complex issues; moderation of personal attitudes; and the role of the dialogue facilitator as an impartial mediator.

Mr. Scheltens is pleased to report that the Pakistan event has been successful, and would like to thank all participants for their hard work. The Aurat Foundation, Hosting Structure of INSPIRED+ Pakistan, has been instrumental in facilitating this multi-stakeholder dialogue by bringing its network of contacts together to discuss the issue of women’s labour rights in Punjab. A number of high-level representatives from political parties, the Punjabi provincial assembly, civil society, media and academia, and business were in attendance.

There was widespread consensus among attendees on the need to prepare a clear advocacy message as discussed during the training session. A senior female MP from the opposition vowed to table a declaration during an upcoming parliamentary plenary session to formalise the recognition of female agricultural workers under Punjabi Labour Law. This statement met with widespread approval, and epitomises the value of dialogue as a complex consensus-building tool.

In future dialogue events, Mr. Scheltens would like to see greater support among male stakeholders for amendments to Punjabi laws dealing with women’s rights in the agriculture sector. This said, male representatives of the Pakistan Research Council, the Punjab Planning Commission and the Labour ministry participated wholly and constructively in both days of training.

The timing of the policy dialogue provides stakeholders with access to decision-makers at a key time, in the run-up to the general elections in Pakistan due to take place in July 2018. Civil society in particular has taken this opportunity to secure campaign pledges from MPs on issues of vital importance to the struggle to promote the rights of women in agriculture.

The Aurat Foundation has taken the initiative in terms of strengthening the political message behind INSPIRED+ Pakistan, and have highlighted the importance of mobilising women as an electoral group through voter registration schemes and “get-out-the-vote” activities linked to the socio-economic rights of rural women. Representatives are excited to be working on an EU-funded project for the first time, and hope to continue working on such projects into the future.

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