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Women and children among IDPs

A DELEGATION of the National Commission on the Status of Women visited camps set up for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Peshawar and Swabi to assess the situation of women and children.

The Commission is concerned that women, especially those who have no male family member with them, are finding it difficult to register and to obtain food and other relief.

Women and young girls are suffering more from the heat because oppressive social norms are forcing them to remain imprisoned in tents. Several women were pregnant and needed special care.

Women who met the NCSW team complained that the Taliban had made their lives very difficult by restricting their movements and stopping them from working. They also complained that neither the government nor the elected representatives came to their help or provided security when their areas were occupied by militants. Young boys described how the Taliban brutally cut people’s throats and killed people for petty reasons. Although children are now being attended to, and some arrangements for their education are also being made, many are traumatised and urgently need psychological counseling.

The Commission recommends that special arrangements must be made for children to continue their studies that were disrupted by the conflict. Those who have sought refuge in towns and cities must be accommodated in government schools and provided with meals as an added incentive. Girls and boys at tertiary level must be accommodated in colleges and schools in other parts of the country and be exempted from paying fees.

The Commission is concerned that incidents of sexual abuse of children are being reported; and recommended that the IDPs themselves should be given an active role in managing and monitoring of relief and protecting the vulnerable members from abuse and exploitation.

Although local people have been generally helpful, some were also exploiting the situation. Landlords are charging high rents and women are persuaded to sell their jewellery at abysmally low prices. There were disturbing reports too that some unscrupulous elements may be involved in trafficking. The government must investigate if these reports have any substance.

The Commission stresses that it is the right of the IDPs as citizens of Pakistan to move to any part of the country, and provincial governments and political parties must not restrict their mobility.

The NCSW emphasises that an effective strategy must be put in place to confront and counter the ideology of Talibanisation and extremism that seeks to deprive women of their basic human rights, destroy our culture and civilisation, and has unleashed so much violence in society.

ANIS HAROON
Chairperson
National Commission on the Status of Women
Islamabad
Source: Dawn
Date:7/5/2009

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