Ume Laila Azhar It has been reaffirmed by our leaders many times, and at different occasions, that Pakistan will achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the end of 2015 - almost five years from now. Out of a hundred million young people, 50 percent are women, who have a low participation in the economy, as we do not give them enough opportunities for education and work. Some of the brightest among the young migrate to other countries or seek employment elsewhere and make those countries richer. However, it is also a fact that the youth, especially girls, are not well educated or technically trained. Hence, their overall production has been small and the value added in their output has been insignificant. Unfortunately, not much is being done in that direction, except in a limited number of institutions. There ought to be a tremendous increase in the training facilities and improvement in the quality of training provided to the youth. It seems that we have a long way to go and there is a need to undertake reforms in every sector of the society. Needless to say, every sector needs to set up their own parameters to meet these goals and participate in making them a success. But the problem in a country like Pakistan is that - specifically in the rural areas - it is the feudal lords or tribal chiefs who matters - and now, in addition to that, there are some extremists whose word carries weight. Some analysts rightly believe that the local bodies system is an ideal system that can help implement the MDGs. But will the feudal lords and tribal chiefs allow the local bodies to promote the cause of universal primary education, gender equality and girls education? It is necessary that the people should own these schemes, and try to make them successful, as they are for the betterment of the have-nots. It is for the political leadership to pass on the management of such schemes to the people, who are to benefit from them. We definitely have to make good use of our womens potential, particularly the educated ones, and impart technical training to a large number of them. But gender equality, which is also one of the UN development goals, today faces greater challenge than before. Some extremist elements in our society oppose that and want to confine women to the four walls of their homes, to the extent that they do not want them to go to schools. In the same vein, they do not want women to take up office jobs or seek employment where they come across men at work. Though we need more lady doctors and nurses, yet many medical practitioners live in a restricted environment that does not, permit them to make full use of their costly training and education. We must thus discover ways to improve this and create more opportunities for women to serve humanity. Universal primary education, gender equality and reduction in child mortality, which the UN goals seek, will make little headway in such a sterile environment. Karo-kari (honour killing) is on the rise. Unfortunately, not all of the cases are reported. And if the police cannot prevent such murders, they are not able to arrest them after their crime. The courts too are often helpless in that event. To encourage parents to send their daughters to schools in the tribal areas, a foreign aid agency offered Rs 200 to parents as an incentive. But while that is being objected to, extremists are now out to enforce their will. For example, the bombing of schools in the tribal areas have destroyed the whole infrastructure. More so, making a law to protect women or ensure their rights is one thing and enforcing it quite another. Women are always at a disadvantage when they are victims of crimes and the offenders are influential local people. Women displaced by armed conflicts, often living alone with their children, are frequently exposed to sexual violence, discrimination and intimidation .Many face poverty and social exclusion as well. Then it comes to environmental protection, the ideal institution to ensure that are the local bodies beginning with the municipalities in towns. But most of the municipalities are a mess and politically divided. They have failed in their primary tasks to keep the towns and cities dirt-free and provide basic facilities. Hence, much of the country has become more or less a slum. If the old slums cannot be easily eradicated, there must be a way to resist the formation of new slums. In fact, new slums are springing up rapidly, as people take care of their posh homes, but not their surroundings. A recent survey has shown that people living in slums and peri-urban localities face health hazardous due to poor sanitation, non-availability of clean water, electricity; and the ones who mostly suffer are women and children. Creating kachi abadis has been a big money game for long. The land mafia has made a phenomenal amount of money through its illegalities. Then building a good drainage system, even though very challenging, is only half the game - protecting and preserving it is the other more difficult half. It is time we give maintenance and sustainability as much importance as building a good water distribution or drainage system. Four percent of the GDP is to be spent on education. That includes the private sectors share. How much is that share has not been specified. But what really matters is how well and purposefully it is spent. More of ghost schools and more ghost teachers will not promote education, as the results of the ambitious SAP-1 and SAP-2 have demonstrated. The education system and education budget should be open and transparent, and teachers should have an effective voice in the system. The same goes for the public health system on which at least two to three percent of the GDP should be spent initially. Too much should not be spent on the absentee doctors and too little on the patients and medicines. The institution of ghost doctors and ghost medical personnel should be brought to an end firmly. Good laws, as the one for the protection of womens rights, are not enough. The implementation of laws is the only solution and far more important is their enforcement and the punishment of the corrupt and criminals. The writer is a development manager. Email: