At UN, Pakistani women making big contribution to nation’s progress; Shazia Marri

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UNITED NATIONS, March 18 (APP): Pakistan told parliamentarians
from around the world on Friday that Pakistani women were rapidly dismantling conventional stereotypes and performing outstandingly in every walk of life as they help steer the country towards progress.
“Yet, like any other society, while Pakistani women have accomplished a lot, a lot more still needs to be done,” Pakistani delegate Shazia Marri told a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), held at UN Headquarters in New York as a side event during the ongoing Commission on Status of women (CSW).
Ms. Marri, a PPP member of the National Assembly, said that Pakistan had the honour of electing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as the first woman prime minister in the Islamic world followed by Fahmida Mirza as the first woman speaker of the house in South Asia and Hina Rabbani Khar as the first female foreign minister of Pakistan.
“From Parliamentarians to ambassadors, from judges to fighter pilots, the role of Pakistani women in the society has remained both vital and inspirational,” she said.
In Parliament, Ms. Marri said, women members outshone their male counterparts in attendance and Parliamentary business.
But in the economic domain, the participation of women in the workforce was low and remained concentrated in the agriculture sector, the Pakistani delegate said.
The non-agriculture employment for women was predominantly in the informal sector. Their prospects for advancement were inhibited by lack of educational attainment and economic means.
“Added to this, there are cultural constraints and religious extremism that women have to counter,” Ms. Marri said.
“With increasing extremism, the challenge for the Pakistani woman has increased tenfold. Not only must she exist and work to make a place within the patriarchal society, but she must also, consistently be on the lookout for intolerant militant hardliners, who feel she has no place in society, and therefore is entirely expendable.”
Pakistan’s Parliament was committed to alleviate and improve the situation of Pakistani women, she said, while listing several women-oriented laws.
Several more institutional measures were underway for the inclusion of women with disabilities and trans-genders in the policy net, and setting up monitoring systems with emphasis on gender disaggregated data collection through cutting edge IT technology, the Pakistani delegate said.
Commissions on status of Women, and Human Rights were already in place, while Minority and Child Rights Commissions are in process.
The country’s Parliament also played a proactive role in ensuring social protection initiatives for women, citing the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is the largest safety-net programme, Ms. Marri said.
BISP had disbursed monthly stipends to the tune of Rs 40 billion to approximately 5 million women of which 76% beneficiaries retain control over the cash disbursed.
Besides the Prime Minister’s Youth Business Loan with 50% quota for young female entrepreneurs, she said, there are also over 50 institutions providing credit and micro-credit facility to women across the country – the pioneer of these, was the First Women’s Bank, established by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989.