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The World Bank Group in its re­cently pub­lished re­port "Pak­istan Coun­try Snap­shot" has said that the coun­try has made im­pres­sive progress in re­duc­ing ab­so­lute poverty and im­prov­ing shared pros­per­ity. "The per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion below the na­tional poverty rate has fallen from 34.7 per cent in fis­cal year 2002 to an es­ti­mated 12.4 per cent in FY2011," the re­port said.

It said that Pak­istan had al­ready achieved the first Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goal (MDG) by more than halv­ing be­tween 1991 and 2011 the pro­por­tion of peo­ple whose in­come is less than $1.25 a day. Fur­ther­more, growth in the real per capita con­sump­tion of the bot­tom 40 per­cent was a re­spectable 3 per cent be­tween 2006 and 2011, it noted. The re­port said poverty re­duc­tion had been stronger in the tra­di­tion­ally poorer provinces of Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh, where its rates were now in­dis­tin­guish­able from those in Pun­jab.

"Poverty re­mains much more preva­lent in Balochis­tan, how­ever, where a siz­able por­tion of res­i­dents are no­madic and live in re­mote and con­flict ar­eas." The re­port, how­ever, said that de­spite this progress, a large por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion re­mained vul­ner­a­ble to fall­ing back into poverty. "Al­though Pak­istan's re­cent gains in poverty were rapid, they re­main frag­ile, in part be­cause many house­holds re­main clus­tered near the poverty line," the re­port added. It said that an es­ti­mated 23 mil­lion peo­ple - 13 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion - lived on an amount be­tween $1.25 and $1.50 per day, mean­ing that small re­duc­tions in con­sump­tion could greatly in­crease poverty rates.

The re­port sug­gested that ef­forts were needed to im­prove poverty mon­i­tor­ing and pol­icy eval­u­a­tion.

"Poverty mea­sure­ment can be in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized in part through more in­de­pen­dent and reg­u­lar­ized poverty as­sess­ments that link mea­sure­ments to other hu­man de­vel­op­ment in­di­ca­tor data base," it pro­posed.

It said an­other needed step was es­tab­lish­ment of a con­struc­tive part­ner­ship be­tween of­fi­cial au­thor­i­ties, donors and academics to pro­mote high qual­ity and timely mea­sure­ment of poverty and shared pros­per­ity, anal­y­sis and pro- gramme eval­u­a­tion. Sim­i­larly ad­di­tional data col­lected at the mauza or tehsil level could be used to gen­er­ate more de­tailed es­ti­mates to help pol­i­cy­mak­ers bet­ter lo­cate poor pock­ets within dis­tricts, it added.

Can land rights for women drive down child mar­riage and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence? "Yes and more", says an in­ter­na­tional group of land and prop­erty rights spe­cial­ists who are due in Wash­ing­ton this week to dis­cuss how im­proved land man­age­ment can re­duce global poverty and foster de­vel­op­ment.

When women have rights to land, ar­gues Klaus Deininger, a lead econ­o­mist and or­ga­nizer of this week's World Bank con­fer­ence, chil­dren's health and education im­proves, house­hold re­sources in­crease and there are fewer child brides as daugh­ters do not need to be mar­ried off young for fi­nan­cial rea­sons. Equally, women with land rights tend to have sav­ings ac­counts, a fac­tor that re­duces do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

"If women have stronger bar­gain­ing power, they ac­tu­ally can re­sist. Their hus­bands will think twice be­fore beat­ing them be­cause they can move out and take their money with them," Deininger said. Or­ga­niz­ers say the con­fer­ence will fo­cus on women and prop­erty with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on gen­der equal­ity and land rights which are key to achiev­ing the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs). The goals, adopted by the United Na­tions last Septem­ber, pro­vide the foun­da­tions for an am­bi­tious plan to tackle the world's most trou­bling prob­lems over the next 15 years.

Land and prop­erty rights ex­perts say when women are in­cluded in a na­tion's land own­er­ship, there can be far reach­ing im­pacts. In sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, women make up more than half of the agri­cul­tural work­force, yet fewer than one in five own farms, ac­cord­ing to the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO). But if women farm­ers had the same ac­cess to re­sources as men, the num­ber of hun­gry in the world could be re­duced by up to 150 mil­lion, the UN World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) says. Ac­cord­ing to Rod­ney Sch­midt of the Rights and Re­sources Ini­tia­tive, a global coali­tion that works on for­est and land pol­icy re­form, more than half the world's land is still held un­der age-old cus­tom­ary ar­range­ments of­ten ar­ranged by gen­der.

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