Islamabad: “A Flawed Pakistan Census will result in blemished information and faulty planning!”
This was the crux of a Press Conference of CSOs on the Population Census held today at a local hotel.
The press conference was organised by various CSOs and human rights activists. They strongly condemned the Federal Government for not appointing women as census enumerators. They are convinced that due to the appointment of largely male enumerators, a significant number of women of this country would be eliminated from the national database, which will further reduce women’s access to public services.
In the 1998 census, the government did not appoint female enumerators. As a result, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statics (PBS) website the male to female ratio was skewed; in some districts women were left out of the count entirely. Learning from its past mistakes, the PBS gender policy section guaranteed appointment of female enumerators for the sixth census. At the conference, it was highlighted that the lack of deployment of female enumerators was a blatant violation of the stated gender policy of PBS.
The representatives of the civil society strongly condemned the government’s stance that women will not be able to take up the hard task of door to door counting. The speakers said that there are tens of thousands of workingwomen in the country who work from dawn to dusk. Women health workers, female teachers have proven their worth by running anti-polio campaigns time and again. In Punjab alone there are more than 160,000 female teachers and health workers, which is equivalent to the number of required enumerators.
The cultural logic that FBS has used for not engaging women as enumerators is self-contradictory. On the one hand, they contend that in our cultural context female enumerators will not be able to work with male enumerators. On the other hand they conveniently ignore the fact that in our culture the majority of women will not be comfortable to interact with male enumerators and share the information of their household with them. Population census is going to be conducted during office hours when most of men especially in urban areas would be absent from homes. The likelihood is that women will not allow male enumerators to enter the house or fill the census form.
Also, the civil society representatives expressed their grave concern over the removal of some of very important columns from the census forms such as disability, reasons of unemployment, male and female mortality, reasons of migration etc. All of these were included in the census form of 1998. This has clearly been a missed opportunity for the government to gather data that could inform key development strategies and public policy.
The civil society is extremely disappointed to see that despite their consistent advocacy, the category of transgenders is not included in the column of gender in the printed forms. The representative of PBS said that they have instructed the enumerators to add that category in the form by hand.
Civil Society Activists are also disappointed to see that the Government did not accept the repeated recommendation to translate census into Urdu as “Ifraad Shumari” (counting all individuals/ persons) instead of “Mardoum Shumari” (counting men). The demand isn’t of “Khanum Shumari” (counting women) – 100%Pakistani citizens should be counted in Census 2017.
We strongly urge the government to immediately take concrete measures to address the concerns of civil society and make arrangements for the deployment of female enumerators. There are enough workingwomen across all districts of the country. We strongly recommend that the government deploy one female teacher with each census team. This will ensure women to women access and save the census exercise from ruin.
 PATTAN Development Organisation, CPD Baluchistan, SPO, EVAW Alliance, IHI, Initiative for Dignity, Women Action Forum, PAIMAN, CRD, Nomad Gallery, INSPIRING Pakistan. Najeeb (Radio power 99), Tahira Abdullah, Dr. Farzana Bari.
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