Oct 26, 2019, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation has termed the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Scheme as highly transformational, as it is the largest ever need-based scholarship programme to promote human capital investment. The formal launch of the Scheme by the Prime Minister is planned for next week. She was telephonically addressing the 26th Vice Chancellors Committee Meeting convened by Dr. Muhammad Ali, Chair of the VCs Committee to brief them about the Government’s upcoming Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Scheme. The heads of public universities across the country attended the meeting, majority of them joined through video link from their campuses. She said that the Prime Minister Imran Khan is keen that this Scheme should benefit maximum number of students across the country, and that the Government will allocate more resources for it in the coming years. Dr. Tariq Banuri, Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) gave a detailed briefing to the Vice Chancellors on the newly conceptualized scholarship scheme, entitled Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Scheme.
Oct 25, 2019, The project steering committee met today to finalize policy guidelines for the final launch of Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Scheme planned for next week. The meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation and Dr. Tariq Banuri, Chairman, HEC. Secretary Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, Additional Secretary Finance, Executive Director HEC, DG – HEC and Convener VCs Committee also came to the table. The Scheme will award Ehsaas scholarships to low-income students enrolled in four and five-year undergraduate programmes. All students from low-income families studying in undergraduate programs in public sector universities are eligible to apply. Selection will be based on need-cum-merit, i.e., on the basis of the student’s GPA and family income (below a maximum threshold). The scholarship covers tuition fee and a living stipend. Fifty per cent of the scholarships will be awarded to female students, while students with special needs as well as those from remote and disadvantaged areas will also be encouraged to apply.
Oct 24, 2019, Eight federal ministries and 4 provincial ministries were at the table when the multisectoral Ehsaas Value Chain Building Committee met for the first time at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. Poverty in rural areas is deeply linked to agriculture and Pakistan is being faced with unique agriculture challenges particularly small landholdings, subsistence farming, exploitation by extractive Aarhtis (middlemen) and stress selling. Unless private sector investment is made in building rural value chains, it will be difficult to break away from the rural poverty cycle. Ehsaas’ multisectoral Ehsaas Value Chain Building Committee’s diverse perspectives will help to shape a value chain building policy to address these challenges. The Ehsaas Value Chain Building Committee was convened by Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation.
Oct 22, 2019, The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development, invited Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation to join the Global Panel’s High Level Stakeholder Group (HLSG) meeting in Windsor, UK. Dr. Nishtar attended the meeting through video conferencing. The main objective of the meeting was to seek the critique of members on the Global Panel’s second foresight report on positioning food systems to deliver healthy and sustainable diets. Virtually addressing the meeting as a panel member, Dr. Nishtar elaborated the multisectoral approach of the government of Pakistan under the Ehsaas framework to address nutrition. “Tackling malnutrition is embedded in the strategy of Ehsaas,” she stated.
October 21, 2019, Dr. Sania Nishtar was invited to the meeting of the standing committee on Industries and Production. The standing committee was discussing performance issues of Utility Stores Corporation (USC) along with ways of reforming this organization. Several options came into discussion including tax exemptions, subsidies and low mark up on bank loans. One of the options discussed was routing BISP cash stipends to women beneficiaries through Utility Stores Corporation. The members of the standing committee strongly emphasized on the latter. They said that if BISP routes its cash transfers to women through USC and give rations instead of cash, then USC will become viable. Chairperson BISP, Dr. Nishtar explained that the government had taken the decision to transform the existing cash out operations of BISP into the Ehsaas Kifalat programme through which women will have access to bank accounts and mobile phones under the ‘one woman one bank account initiative’. ‘It was not possible to change the policy course, and in any case, it does not make any logical sense to make change in policy course in order to salvage another organization which should focus on overcoming its performance constraints’, she elaborated.
Oct 18, 2019, Under overarching Ehsaas framework, two of the executing agencies of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD)- Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) and Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), signed an MoU in Islamabad to capitalize on impactful synergies. This partnership based on collaboration and leveraging is primarily aimed at women’s economic empowerment and their uplifting in society. As part of the MoU- 25,000 women trained by Women Empowerment Centres (WECs) of PBM will be provided with interest free loans by PPAF, enabling them to become economically sustainable. Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation and Shaista Sohail, Secretary Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division witnessed the signing ceremony as Aon Abbas Bappi, Managing Director, PBM and Qazi Azmat Isa, CEO, PPAF inked the MoU. Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Nishtar termed the new collaboration within Ehsaas, as a great initiative and hoped that it will benefit deserving women to graduate out of poverty.
Oct 16, 2019, Kings College, London has conferred the prestigious Doctorate of Science Honoris Causa on Dr. Sania Nishtar on October 16, in London. Dr. Sania Nishtar is a Kings alumna, and already has a Ph.D from Kings College.
This honour was conferred upon her for her work and contribution in global health and development. She is the only Pakistani woman with both a Ph.D and a D.Sc. According to the Rt. Hon the Lord Geidt, Chairman of Kings College, London “honorary degrees are conferred by Kings on persons of conspicuous merit and the highest distinction. Honorary Graduands have no formal duties as such, but may of course contribute to the life of the University by sharing experiences and expertise or engaging socially” Dr. Nishtar received her degree in person in London. Talking to the press she said “she is deeply humbled”.
Oct 12, 2019, To acknowledge the contributions of women in various fields, Dawood Global Foundation held an award ceremony, 11th Annual Ladies Fund Women’s Awards for Pakistan 2019, at the Governor House in Karachi. Honorable Governor Sindh, Imran Ismail was the chief guest at the event. He presented lifetime achievement award to Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation. Dr. Nishtar also chairs the Benazir Income Support Program and the United Nations International Institute for Global Health’s Advisory Committee. Hundreds of the inspiring women attended the ceremony where people had gathered to celebrate the strength and empowerment of women and acknowledge their achievements of various categories.
Oct 12, 2019, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation who was on a one -day visit to Karachi called on honourable Governor Sindh, Imran Ismail at Governor House in Karachi. Both agreed to explore collaboration around what Ehsaas can offer to Sindh and how can it partner with federal government and private sectors. The Governor termed Ehsaas as a key step of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to eliminate poverty.
Oct 10, 2019, Under the framework of Ehsaas, the Board of BISP approved the increase in the stipend amount for girls from Rs. 750 to Rs. 1,000 and the provision of emergency relief to the residents of villages along the Line of Control. The Board also approved the plan to extend the Conditional Cash Transfer programme for education to another 50 districts around the country to bring out of school children within the education system. The Board meeting was held here which was attended by Secretary BISP, Zafar Khan, Atif Bajwa, Khawar Mumtaz, Ashfaq Hassan Khan, Qazi Azmat Isa and representatives of various government departments. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation and Chairperson BISP Dr. Sania Nishtar briefed the Board on the governance and transparency improvement measures introduced in the Programme. She termed the signing of the banking contracts as a step towards transparent payment mechanism and evidence that the present government continues to bring about significant governance improvements for creating a welfare state modeled on Riasat-e-Madina. In order to address stunting and malnutrition, already emphasized in Ehsaas, a pilot project to provide specialized nutritious food packets to poor mothers and their children was also approved. The project will be launched in one district of each province along with GB, AJK and merged districts of KP.
Oct 10, 2019, BISP has signed a historic memorandum of understanding with Habib Bank Limited and Bank Alfalah Limited on a strategic partnership that will enable financial inclusion of millions of women as envisioned in Ehsaas programme under the one-woman-one-bank-account initiative. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection and Chairperson BISP, Dr. Sania Nishtar said that a series of policy initiatives and measures are being taken to turn BISP into a model of good governance. She said that the new biometric based payment solution developed by BISP through an open and consultative process was a great step to ensure good governance, transparency and efficiency in the payment mechanism for beneficiaries. Hiring of the new financial institutions through a transparent and open competitive bidding process was a significant development for improved service delivery and fraud prevention, she added. A competitive procurement process completed in eight months was carried out in most transparent manner with representation from all relevant ministries and organizations.
Oct 9, 2019, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation paid a surprise visit to Peshawar More, Islamabad to meet with daily wage labourers. She sat with the labourers and listened to their problems. Labourers informed Dr. Nishtar that those from low income backgrounds who apply for Government of Pakistan class-4 jobs over and over again have to pay PKR 500 with each application which is a massive cost for them. Speaking to the labourers, Dr. Nishtar said that most useful lessons for policy come through engagement on ground and she will relay their voice in the cabinet to address their concern.