Islamabad - The Higher Education Commission and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Thursday marked the International Women’s Day by celebrating the achievements of female students and alumni.

The ceremony was arranged for the female recipients of the USAID-funded merit and need-based scholarships. 

Helen M. Pataki, USAID-Pakistan Mission Director (Acting) speaking on the occasion, said the aim of organizing the event was to acknowledge achievements and success of female scholarship recipients.

In 2004, she said, HEC and USAID had joined hands to provide quality education to the talented students who lack the financial resources to attend a university.

She said that under this scholarship program, students can study in Bachelors or Masters Programs of 31 partner universities on a fully-funded basis in the fields of Business Administration, Agriculture, Social Sciences, Medicine and Engineering.

She informed the audience that 5000 scholarships have been awarded under the program so far, adding that 2000 students have completed their education while 3000 students are currently studying in partner universities. Only through education, Pakistan children can thrive, she concluded.

Executive Director (ED) HEC Dr. Arshad Ali paid a glowing tribute to Pakistani women; especially those associated with academia. Stressing on the role of women in development of nations, he said that ensuring gender equality through its programs is among the foremost priorities of HEC.

 “HEC is committed to ensuring provision of equal opportunities to women in the higher education sector, as educated women guarantee a prosperous nation,” he asserted. He said it is the outcome of HEC’s initiatives that the female enrolment rate in higher education institutions since 2002 has increased from 32 per cent to 48 per cent.

He underscored that women’s universities are playing vital role in the education of female professionals, artists, writers, and thinkers who are the future leaders of an educated, enlightened, ethical and prosperous Pakistan. He maintained that HEC encourages female researchers to avail the opportunities provided by HEC under various initiatives. He reiterated the HEC’s resolve to ensuring strong commitment to Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Act 2010. He said the role of HEC cannot be denied in achieving the goals of human resource development and transition to the knowledge-based economy.

Vice Chancellor (VC) Fatima Jinnah University Dr. Samina Qadir said the International Women’s Day is a call for gender parity across the world. She observed that education paves the way for development of sustainable societies and economic and social justice.

She commended the HEC and USAID for proactively playing a role in promoting gender equity in the higher education sector.