Pakistan is going through large scale infrastructure development with most of the state-led mega projects being funded by international financing agencies. Many of these agencies have mandatory social safeguards to mitigate the negative impacts of the projects for project-affected-communities especially women. This provides the government an opportunity to advance the conditions of women in project areas. However, the gender mainstreaming efforts usually face resistance from communities on various grounds including religion.
This study explores the nature of resistance on religious basis and the strategies used by the development practitioners to manage such resistance. A qualitative research approach was employed and through a purposive sampling technique participants were recruited for this study. In-depth interviews were used to collect data which was analyzed by thematic analysis. The data was collected from development practitioners working for government and international financing agencies on infrastructure projects.
Resistance towards development of women initiatives are on interventions, presence of female staff in communities, and on giving access to project teams, including women, to females in communities. Major reasons for this resistance were suspicion of projects, especially if the financing agencies were Western, and the fear that development of women may result in women losing their religious and cultural values which may lead to the breakdown of the institution of family and Islamic society. The strategies to deal with these resistances include involving religious leaders as stakeholders, peer education through religious scholars, exposure visits for local religious leaders, developing gender and cultural sensitivities of the staff, meaningful consultation with community, and effective grievance redress mechanism.
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