Activists, leaders call for increased budget for rural women, implementation of laws
Women activists and representatives from rural areas demanded greater participation in democratic and decision-making process as well as development of the country.
These and other demands were made by over 1,000 women representatives who had gathered at the Lok Virsa to participate in a two-day annual conference on rural women, organised by Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (Poda).
The conference laid stress on giving due respect to domestic women workers, ensuring their rights and participation in the local government elections, an end to domestic violence and government support to rural women.
A session was also dedicated to using radio as a tool to create awareness about gender-based violence and exploitation.
Aqeela Naz, Veeru Kohlan, Nazeeran Jamali, Suria Bano, Kishwar Naheed, Khawar Mumtaz and Neelam Toru were among prominent women leaders and advocates who addressed the conference.
While sharing the objective and outcome of the event with The Express Tribune, PODA Executive Director Sameena Nazir said that the gathering brought together 1,600 rural women from 107 districts who are activists and leaders in their respective communities.
She said they had been organising the conference for the last eight years to highlight the role of rural women, who are the largest section of the population, in the development of the country, and secure their rights as equal citizens,” she said.
“Each woman present at the conference is a movement in herself,” she said
She said it was unfortunate that the money in district budgets goes to roads and construction and not directed towards rural women issues.
“No funds are allocated for women health; breast cancer is on the rise in rural areas and the government is doing nothing,” Nazir said.
“Thousands of girls pass primary level schooling every year, but stop study because of limited high schools in rural areas.
Lok Virsa Executive Director Dr Fouzia Saeed said “women are the soul and the backbone of Pakistani culture; their rights and status should be protected,” she added.
Saeed said they had planned to promote the cultural diversity of Pakistan and highlight the oft-neglected regions of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“I strongly feel that Lok Virsa should facilitate to bring back the folk art and progressive traditions in the lives of the people.”
She said that this should be done in a way, that it gave a deeper meaning and a pride to our identity.
She said that they were engaged in revamping the heritage museum’s social media profile to reach out to the youth. “We are making plans to put our audio and video archives online,” she added.
National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz said that in the past five years the parliament had formulated several laws for the protection and empowerment of women. “However, there is still a need to make procedures and allocate funds to ensure implementation of these laws.”
“NCSW is taking concrete steps to realise these rights”, she added.
National Assembly Member Marvi Memon said that women were playing an important role in the agriculture sector and the national economy.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.