ISLAMABAD, March 8 : President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday said empowerment of Pakistan’s women was linked to their economic independence and awareness about rights particularly related to inheritance, education and healthcare.
Addressing at a ceremony to mark International Women’s Day, the President called upon women of the country to be well-aware of their rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
President’s wife Begum Samina Alvi and women trailblazers with major accomplishments in different fields of life attended the event here at Aiwan-e-Sadr, organized by Ministry of Human Rights in collaboration with UN Women, European Union and Haqooq-e-Pakistan.
President Alvi said the laws of Pakistan reiterated the teachings of Islam that focused on ensuring rights of women in all spheres of life.
He emphasized on economic empowerment of women to help them thrive in society with dignity, adding that ‘without financial independence, there was hardly an independence’.
He said the country’s laws ensured right of inheritance to women as taught by the religion, however stressed the need for social reformation to promote the trend.
Dr Alvi mentioned that under the socio-welfare Ehsaas programme, women were the direct beneficiaries of the government’s stipend aimed at their uplift.
In terms of ensuring return of loans, he said, the women worldwide had been proved more responsible and reliable compared to men.
He said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved loan disbursement of Rs 5 million for women to launch their businesses and urged those intending for entrepreneurship to avail the facility.
In healthcare sector, the President emphasized on launch of Tele Health services for women to provide them prompt and free medical advice on telephone.
He pointed that frequent pregnancies resulted in malnutrition of women and newborns, and stressed that breastfeeding for continuous two years could ensure birth spacing.
The President said the Muslim traditions were enriched with examples of a balanced society and quoted historian Ibn-e-Khuldun’s book ‘Muqadimah’ that mentioned the golden culture of equality of men and women.
Similar traditions, he said, needed to be incorporated in the present day society by providing women an equitable platform to showcase their abilities and professionalism.
The President acknowledged the services rendered by the country’s women during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly doctors and paramedics. However, he expressed concern that a large number of professional doctors left the profession after marriage compared with their 70 percent ratio of enrollment in medical colleges.
He stressed the need for a change in the country’s employment structure to accommodate the educated women and help them cope with the needs of both profession and family side by side.
He also favoured women’s more effective electoral representation, decision-making opportunities and safer environment at workplaces sans harassment.
Dr Alvi expressed concern over the retrogressive laws in the making in Europe in the wake of Islamophobia to target Muslims, including women.
He said media could play an important role in changing cultural scriptures about problems such as domestic violence by portraying it as an ill-practice.
The President said the role of Ulema (religious figures) could prove effective in supporting healthcare issues including breastfeeding and population control.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said women of Pakistan played a forefront role in national development right from the creation of the country by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts.
She said whether it was struggle for family laws in the era of 60s or the present day ‘Aurat March’ and ‘Haya March’, women of the country always championed their rights with diversity in views or forms.
She said the government’s amendments in inheritance laws led to smooth dispensation of justice and mentioned that soon the bill on amendment in Protection of Women Against Harassment at Workplace Act would be tabled in National Assembly.
She urged upon the international community to take serious note of the rape incidents of Kashmiri women and the detention of women political leaders in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir besides the persistent violation of Geneva Convention.
Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal said education and financial security was the basis of women empowerment that gave strength to girls and women to make their mark in all fields of life. She mentioned that the school, she had founded 38 years ago in Balochistan’s Mand village, paved way for local girls to excel as a pilot, bankers and paramedics.
During COVID-19, she said, as an educationist, she started first ‘camel library’ in different areas of Balochistan to help children continue their studies during lockdown. She mentioned that 200 women had recently joined Frontier Corps in Balochistan in fight against terrorism.
Dr Fehmida Mirza, Member National Assembly and former Speaker said women could harness their potential and achieve tremendously if provided a level-playing field instead of the treatment of gender bias.
She proposed a gender-specific national budgeting, a 10 percent quota in party tickets in general elections and an intensive post-legislative scrutiny of Harassment at Workplace Act to make it more inclusive.
EU Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara said a conducive legal environment and a gender sensitive approach was need of the hour. She termed the government’s Ehsaas programme ‘transformative’ in financially empowering the underprivileged women during pandemic.
She said EU’s partnership with Pakistan supported equal representation of women in all fields of life for a country’s brighter future.
Sharmeela Rasool, UN Women Countryhead said women’s equal participation was vital for Pakistan’s development and for achievement of Sustainable Development Goals. She lauded several pro-women laws as part of the government of Pakistan’s Vision 2025.
Given the male-dominated environment, she said, the UN Women emphasized on ensuring power of political decision-making for Pakistani women, which could lead to their greater social protection.
Federal Secretary Ministry of Human Rights Inamullah Khan said the ministry took stringent steps regarding policy-making, monitoring mechanism and institutional reforms particularly protection of property rights and the Zainab Alert Bill against child abuse.
He paid tribute to women who challenged stereotypes of gender discrimination and worked diligently as healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rakhshanda Naz, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa’s Ombudsperson against Harassment said Domestic Violence Act 2021 and Property Rights Act were significant steps of the government in ensuring rights of the women.
She stressed provincial legislation for gender audit of each State institution, provision of equal resources and opportunities to women and enactment of laws against child marriage and domestic labour.
Zara Naeem, who scored highest marks in ACCA worldwide, termed Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah as the ideal for the country’s women in view of her leadership, vision and steadfastness. Positive approach, focus and faith in Almighty Allah leads to success, she added.
Erum Baloch, the country’s youngest hockey player from Sindh’s Jacobbadad town termed the occasion momentous for acknowledging the contribution of sportswomen in surpassing challenges.
Reem Sharif, the first transgender officer of Punjab Police mentioned that the government’s support through Transgender Persons Act 2018, Sehat Insaf Card and employment in public institutions were important steps in ensuring life as a respectful citizen.
An inspirational song ‘Sar Buland’ penned by activist Samar Minallah was played on the occasion highlighting women as a source of strength and resilience.
A video presentation showed the government’s Helpline 1099 as the ‘24/7 savior for the victims of domestic violence’. A live musical performance by young artistes Shamu Bai and Vishnu belonging to rural Sindh enthralled the audience with their ode ‘Faqira’.
A short drama documentary ‘Tum Mazboot Ho’ (You are strong) was screened to show a girl’s dream to be powerful enough to save her mother from domestic violence and an awareness story on the laws protecting women’s share in inheritance.
A video titled ‘Wonder Women of Pakistan’ by UN Women showed achievements of Anita Karim, Pakistan’s first and only international practitioner of mixed martial arts.