Islamabad (observer):An essential step to help improve lives of Pakistani women is to provide platform for inter-provincial and regional dialogue which may well pave the way for a national framework on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
This point of concern was raised by women activists dedicated to the cause of women empowerment who assembled here in Islamabad at the national consultation arranged by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), with support from Aurat Foundation’s USAID supported Gender Equity Program (GEP) and UN Women. Participants believed that women’s participation in all sectors can be a real driver of change to achieve sustainable development in Pakistan.
Participants at the conference demanded the establishment of a federal accountability mechanism to implement Pakistan’s international commitments including Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) as it remains the sole responsibility of federal government under the Ministry of Human Rights.
Speaking at the conference, Fiza Batool Gilani, Goodwill Ambassador for Women Empowerment said that “devolution of power from federal government to provincial has opened new vistas of opportunities as the provincial governments have been empowered to ensure delivery of services at grassroots level.” She linked the economic empowerment to empowerment of women and said that, regretfully the “number of women living below poverty line is higher than men in Pakistan.” and regretfully it continues to rise.
Speakers called for women-friendly legislation, and enhanced provincial gender strategies to address women issues after the devolution of Ministry of Women. While supporting the devolution, the participants added that it is necessary for the Government of Pakistan to agree on an updated framework on gender equality and women’s empowerment in light of the 18th amendment.
Pramila Patten, CEDAW committee member, informed that “federal government is responsible to provide leadership to provincial government to ensure implementation of Pakistan’s international commitments.” Alice Shackelford, country director of UN Women and Simi Kamal of GEP also spoke on the occasion.
Anis Haroon, chairperson of NCSW, noted that “national development is not possible without achieving the goal of women development.” In her concluding remarks, she demanded a separate Women Ministry and 10% quota for women in government departments.
To assess the provincial situation on gender equality in post devolution scenario, presentations by representatives of each province were also part of the discussion.
Riaz Khan Mehsud, Additional Secretary (administration) of FATA, while highlighting key issues of women in FATA said that “unless the problems of women of FATA are not properly addresses, it would lead to socio-economic polarisation.”
During the discussion session, a participant from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) pointed out that “while the social welfare department is active in G-B, but so far there is no evidence of progress in the province.”