Muhammad Ali Asghar
LAHORE, Sep 19 (APP): Democracy is a system of government by the people and for the people; and it advocates equality of rights for all members of society irrespective of their gender, caste, creed, colour and race etc. Historically, the weaker sections of society such as women had been facing gender disparity, harassment, violence and other problems even in the countries with democratic system.
The women had to endure all kinds of pressure and burden to meet their family needs and they had been systematically denied resources, information and freedom of action.
Later on, a new approach of gender equality had developed in the world particularly in democracies, thus sharing control over resources and decision-making with women.
The countries which had very early realized the fact that women empowerment was inevitable to promote and strengthen democracy; are now swaying the world and making progress on all fronts.
The women provided with access to education, employment and health facilities, have more power in household decision making, improved child well-being, income, reduced fertility rates and increased resources, besides, their families are healthier, more children go to school, and agricultural productivity improves.
We have numerous examples that development in Europe, USA, Canada and other western countries doubled after they empowered their women, which helped them attain the status of developed states.
Pakistani women had since long been striving to make their mark in various fields of life; consequently, they were able to mitigate social hatred against them as well as got a better position in different sectors to contribute to nation building. However, there was a lot more to be achieved by this 50 per cent of the country’s population.
Keeping in view that empowering women was vital to improving socio-economic and political conditions, present Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was focusing on gender equality in decision-making, planning and policy formulation.
PTI Chairman and Prime Minister Imran Khan always advocated for full protection to women’s rights and ample place had been given to women in the party manifesto.
He always safeguarded women’s rights including economic, legal, political and social rights, especially rights of minority, rural and poor women. The present PTI government was also working for the achievement of the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan for women empowerment.
The government was striving for removing imbalances in all sectors, so that women have equal access to all development benefits, social services and to ensure their equal access to quality health and education facilities to eliminate gender disparity.
The democratic government was also making policies for mainstreaming women in productive sectors and reviewing the impact of existing policies, labour laws, identify gender-based rules and regulations, and suggesting modifications.
The government had also taken initiatives to encourage women to have increased access to ownership, control and management of productive assets e.g. land and formal credit sectors employing women, besides, creating awareness of legal and constitutional rights.
The Punjab government under the leadership of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar was also fostering gender equity and women empowerment through legislation, advocacy and capacity building.
Talking about women empowerment and gender violence, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar told APP that the role of women in the progress of Pakistan was highly appreciative, and “We will not compromise on women’s safety. Criminals involved in violence against women deserve no leniency and are being dealt with iron hands.” he added.
The Governor said, an awareness campaign was being launched in universities across the province in collaboration with ‘Women Peace Council’ to curb violence and sexual harassment against women. Recommendations regarding the campaign have also been sought from Vice Chancellors of universities.
He said that recent shameful incidents with women had become even more dangerous than cancer.
In order to stop such incidents, he added, the courts must decide such cases within six months and there must be special judges for such cases like the special judges for the cases of overseas Pakistanis, asserting that he would especially discuss this matter with Chief Justice of Lahore High Court.
The present government was also formulating such laws, so that the women don’t have to face the difficulties for justice, he said, citing that in England, women don’t have to go to police station for recording statements, instead police go to victim’s home and their identity is never revealed.
Enumerating government’s steps towards women rights, safety and facilitation, the Provincial Minister for Women Development Ashifa Riaz Fatyana strongly condemned all forms of violence against women, and said that significant steps had been taken at the practical level for economic independence and development of women. The implementation framework of Women Development Policy 2018 had been formulated and implemented.
The Punjab government was considering smart courts for speedy justice and punishment for prevention of violence, harassment and sexual abuse of women. In addition, the initiatives like young girls’ educational, cognitive and health activities including judo and cadet courses as well as One Window Joint Action Plan of all concerned stakeholders were also being focused. The Women Development Department (WDD) and other relevant departments are proactive to implement existing laws for elimination of sexual violence against women and gender discrimination, she maintained.
The Punjab government had also taken concrete steps for women empowerment, and they were playing an important role in national development. With an aim to facilitate working women, 221 daycare centres had so far been set up across the province. Pakistani women are very talented and have proved their abilities in different sectors. Unfortunately, every year, thousands of talented and qualified women left their professional careers due to lack of better daycare facilities in their departments where they can leave children with trust. She said that WDD was providing equipment, trained staff and other facilities worth
Rs 2 million for this purpose.
Ashifa Riaz said the WDD also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Government College University (GCU) for establishment of first women development centre at the varsity. Resources will be provided for clinical psychologist career choice, development, family planning, educational, psychological and emotional as well as gender sensitization counseling to address the problems of girls in this center.
The scope of this centre will be extended to other universities as well, she disclosed.
Ashifa Riaz said, “Our women continue to work on the front line in Covid-19. The services rendered by women doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and other sectors during this pandemic are commendable.”
During the Covid-19, agreements have been signed with Enablers and BF Technology to provide decent employment to women sitting at home, besides, conducting virtual trainings for women.
The provincial minister said that the fifth edition of Pakistan’s first online government digital magazine had been published
and from the platform of Dukhtran-Pakistan, the students of educational institutions were trained on peace
and tolerance in everyday life for the establishment of a society free from gender discrimination and violence.
She said, the usefulness of Punjab women helpline 1043 had been improved.
Talking to APP, Provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat also expressed grave concern over rising incidents of violence against women in Punjab in recent times and said that concrete steps had been taken to curb these crimes.
He added that he had directed all the authorities concerned that denial or delay in registration of FIR against such incidents would not be tolerated. The police have also been directed to activate the district anti-crime cells set up for women in a proper manner and to diligently inform the women protection authority of its steps during the investigation.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore, Additional IG Ghulam Mahmood Dogar also vowed to protect the women against harassment, violence and violation of their rights. “Lahore Police will support the victims of gender based violence and will leave no stone unturned to bring the culprits to justice,” he resolved.
Recently Lahore Police, he mentioned, organised a ‘Women Safety Awareness Walk against Harassment and Violence’ to sensitize civil society, working women, lecturers and students regarding sanctity and respect of women.
The CCPO said, in this connection, Punjab police also developed a mobile phone ‘Women Safety App’
enabling the women to get immediate police help in case of any harassment or violence against them.
“There is an option of location in this application and police will response and reach to the victims within
no time,” he added. This unique app would help substantially in preventing and eliminating all forms of
violence against women, which had alarmingly increased in the society for the last few days.
Similarly, Lahore police was establishing an ‘Anti-Women Harassment and Violence Cells’ at Police
station Defense Area (B) and Police Khidmat Markaz Liberty to ensure prompt support to affected women
from registration of FIRs to medical of victims, investigation process, hearing of cases in relevant courts
and other related matters. Female Victim Support Officers (VSOs) would run these cells and action would
be taken within 15 minutes after receiving each call in this regard on the dedicated helpline 1242.
While sharing his views on the subject, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation- Chamber
of Commerce and Industry (SAARC-CCI) President Iftikhar Ali Malik said that no country can progress in
any sphere of life without active participation of women in mainstream national development process.
Malik said that women entrepreneurs have been designated as the new engine of economic growth and
rising stars of the economies in developing countries to bring prosperity and welfare. He added that
women also contribute and support the economy extensively in different ways by being employed in
several sectors. He said, many successful businesses in Pakistan were being run by women and some
of them are highly skilled in entrepreneurial activities. “It was a fact that many of the world’s largest
enterprises are owned and run by women, who are aware of correct application of theory in business,”
he observed. He said, women constituted 48.54 per cent of total population in Pakistan, but had little
participation in national development process, adding that there was a need to fully harness their
potentials and properly utilize them in all sectors especially in SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises)
on the pattern of European Union. He suggested that most of the rural women could be self employed
in food, livestock, agriculture, health, education sectors and SMEs by offering them interest-free loans
on easy installments payable after five to ten years.
Iftikhar Ali Malik said that short technical courses must also be launched across the country to impart
basic knowledge to women in various trades to meet the ever increasing demands of skilled workers
About rural women, Malik said they also played a catalytic role towards achievement of transformational economy, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development.
SAARC Chamber President said Pakistan’s economy consisted of 3.3 million SMEs comprising services providers, manufacturing units and starts up. SMEs made up over 30 per cent of Pakistan GDP, account
for approximately 25 per cent of export generation and provide over 70 per cent industrial employment.
He cited that 25 million SMEs were the backbone of EU economy and provided two, out of three, industrial
jobs in the region.
Iftikhar Ali Malik mentioned that they had so far established 11 women chambers in Pakistan and vowed
to continue to ensure their contributions in national development.
Meanwhile, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Mian Tariq Misbah said that
women entrepreneurs can revitalise and revolutionalise country’s economy by ensuring their optimum contributions in various sectors, as the government was taking comprehensive measures encouraging
and empowering the women community. He advised the women entrepreneurs to also prove their mettle
in the potential sector of tourism as Pakistan offers a wide spectrum of tourism ranging from religious
places for Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhists etc. to ancient civilizations of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa etc.
“Women are an integral part of society and no society can develop without active participation of women
in the mainstream national development,” he opined.
It had been observed that democratic institutions such as parliament, ministries, political parties and
civil society organisations were stronger with gender equality and having women’s voices, however
the countries especially those developing had yet to do lot to achieve this goal.