UNITED NATIONS, Dec 08 (APP): Pakistan has joined a key group launched at the United Nations to coordinate actions aimed at the elimination of violence against women and girls that has intensified since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic.

Seventy-seven UN Member States and observers have already joined what is called the “Group of Friends”, which will meet on quarterly basis, according to the organizers. Some international and regional organizations as well as civil society groups have also expressed their interest to partake in this initiative.

Addressing the group on Monday, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram said that Islamabad fully supports Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call to end violence against women during Covid-19.

“We continue to support all efforts that aim to end violence against women,” he said.
Noting that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable, the Pakistani envoy said it was evident from the sharp spike in domestic violence and abuse against women and girls during lockdowns.

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Pakistan is following a whole of government approach to ensure that women and girls have necessary protections available to them against violence, harassment and abuse, he said, adding its recovery response remains focused on the well-being and protection of women.
“Our Minister for Human Rights, Dr Shireen Mazari, has led the way to protect the rights of women and also promote their well-being, especially during the current pandemic,” Ambassador Akram added.

“We are progressively strengthening pro-women legislation,” he said. “Our Parliament has recently passed bills to counter rape and honour killings, prevent early and forced marriages, and expanded workplace protections for working women.

“Under the leadership of the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Development, Dr. Sania Nishtar, we are taking concrete measures to uplift women from the shackles of poverty,” the Pakistani envoy added.

Through the flagship Ehsaas Programme, he said, the government is reaching out to millions of underprivileged women and providing them cash assistance and social protection within their homes. More than 7 million women have received assistance through this programme in which the government has so far rolled out Rs.144 billion.

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“We will continue to work passionately at home and abroad to strengthen all efforts aimed at elimination of violence against women and girls,” Ambassador Akram told the group.
Opening the meeting, the Head of the European Union Delegation to the UN, Ambassador Olof Skoog, said that the “Group of Friends” will make efforts to turn commitments to protect women into action.

Noting the ongoing initiatives at national and international levels, he said the Group will serve as a platform to highlight good practices, identify shortcomings and mobilize further efforts.

Ambassador Skoog also thanked UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed for her presence and for being a key supporter and driving force of this initiative.