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World Women’s Day

The International Women’s Day with the theme “Gender and HIV/AIDS”, was celebrated in Pakistan, as elsewhere in the world, on March 8, as sort of a reminder of the launch of the struggle for women’s emancipation world-wide. It will be recalled that the Socialist Party of America celebrated the first International Women’s Day in New York, way back in 1908, following which, this day has assumed a global dimension for women in the developed and developing countries alike. The speakers at various functions held on the day in Pakistan, expressing concern over inadequate health and educational facilities as well as job opportunities for women, demanded necessary steps for ensuring better health services and economic empowerment of women.

It will be noted that attention has been largely focused on whatever progress has been made in that direction as well as the urgency of attending to the mounting unfinished work. Various organizations celebrated the day, generally speaking, with the idea of creating awareness among the womenfolk, evidently, in order to motivate them to participate in the ongoing multidirectional effort for liberation of the variously depressed section of the population. Around 25 percent females in Pakistan happen to be literate while 1.2 million educated among them do not have jobs matching their qualifications.

The rallies, marches, fairs, seminars, shows, films and debates held to mark the occasion echoed and re-echoed with demands focusing not only protection of women’s rights, but also elimination of their exploitation in the largely male dominated society. Instances of these were quoted from excesses like prostitution, rape, kidnapping, domestic violence and forced marriages and harassment of women in factories and offices and other working places.

Mention may also be made of the demand by women and human rights activists for the repeal of the Hudood Ordinance, the law that has been often held responsible for degrading Pakistani women socially, economically and culturally. These being the common urges and aspirations sounded on the day, mention may also be made of serious notice being taken, though sparingly, of the theme of the day, with references to women as the worst victims of AIDS/HIV infection and demand for a campaign for increasing awareness of this menace.

Now that Pakistan seems to have awakened to the need of a fair deal to the women, understandable should also be the recollection of successes achieved and the urge for doing the needful, as reflected in the messages on the occasion from the President, General Pervez Musharraf, the Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and the First, Lady, Begum Sehba Musharraf. Noteworthy, in this regard, was the pointed reference the President made to a number of government initiatives, particularly, integration of women in the mainstream of national life, that is, their inclusion in the institutions of decision making and in other important departments. His observations on increased political empowerment of women can hardly be questioned. He has pointed out that the role of women in national development and political life has been strengthened and consolidated not only by restoration of women seats in the legislatures but also by effecting expansion in their representation at all the tiers of legislation.

The Prime Minister, on his part, while referring to the theme of the day this year ­ “Gender and HIV/AIDS” – also lauded the measures taken by the Ministry of Women Development to celebrate the day with enthusiasm. In her message, Begum Sehba Musharraf rightly emphasized the need of making joint efforts to raise the status of women in the society, to prevent violence and abuse against women both inside and outside homes, while pointing to the need of organizing awareness campaigns to achieve the targets set by the government.

Source: The Nation

Date:3/11/2004

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