LAHORE: Hard facts and personal experiences detailing patriarchy, oppression, and subjugation that perpetuate violence against women and communities with different identities were presented at the international conference of Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation (WELDD) programme here on Monday.
It was organised by Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre where the rights activists shared their success stories and ways to expand activism initiatives.
The WELDD programme was started in Pakistan in 2012 to advance women’s participation in public and political arenas, build resistance to violence against women, assist them in peace-building initiatives and to promote sustainable livelihood options for women to strengthen the democratisation process.
In four years, numerous women in Pakistan across the world benefited from the trainings, outreach initiatives and unification of women’s voices from the programme.
Farida Shaheed, executive director of Shirkat Gah, summarised the attendees’ stories, saying: “Women have suffered violence and prejudice for thousands of years and it is unlikely that their status in the world will magically change. However, under the WELDD programme, women united nationally and internationally, bridging gaps created by a rural-urban divide and differences of class, sect, and religion to bring about the actual change.”
Gulnar Tabassum, director communication & leadership, said many organisations and activists working in Pakistan on women’s issues had forgotten the word “feminism” and “secularism”.
“With the WELDD, Shirkat Gah tried to make largely rural women realise their constitutional and human rights and understand what feminism is, but they are unable to practise it fully in their communities and families. That is the fear we are fighting against,” she said.
The conference ended with a meet-the-press session in which writers and journalists like I.A. Rehman, Hussain Naqi, Rashed Rehman and Imtiaz Alam interacted with the international activists. They shared information on violations of women’s rights during the armed conflicts, specifically by the militant Islamic State (IS) group in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Africa and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Some of the international women’s rights activists present in the conference were Dr Fatou Sow (Senegal), Sana Salam Kareem (Iraq), Liah Ghazanfar Jawad (Afghanistan), Suha Mohammd Saeed Ba Sherin (Yemen), Dr. Vivienna Wee (Indonesia/Singapore), Ariane Brunet (Canada) and Homa Hoodfar (Iran).
They were joined by Pakistani activists Fauzia Mallah, Veeru Kohli and Humaira Bachal.