LAHORE, March 8: A number of rallies and meetings held to mark the International Women’s Day here on Saturday stressed the need to empower women by abolition of feudal socio-economic order.
The Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF), the Women Workers’ Helpline (WWH), the Pakistan Labour Federation (PLF), the Women Action Forum and the Working Women’s Organisation (WWO) held meetings and rallies to highlight the plight of women in the country.
WWO President Rubina Jamil while speaking at an International Women’s Day meeting at the Lahore Press Club said the rulers paid only lip service to women’s cause and were reluctant to change their feudal attitude towards them. The government talked about enlightened moderation but had failed to repeal discriminatory Hudood laws and imposed unprecedented restrictions on trade unions to exploit workers.
She said legislation was kept pending on 25 bills moved in the assemblies for empowerment of women in the tenure of the former government. Women were denied wages equal to men for similar nature of work. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports indicated a significant increase in honour killing, burning of women and domestic violence.
WWO Coordinator Aima Mahmood said that Pakistan had entered the 21st century but women continued to be meted out the treatment given to them in Medieval Ages. Tall claims were being made about the empowerment of women on the basis of their employment in two or three big cities but the fate of their overwhelming majority living in rural areas had remained unchanged.
All Pakistan Federation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Gulzar Ahmed Chaudhry said women were not only among the marginalised sections of society in Pakistan but were also victims of torture. The men considered them their servants and the rulers considered them inferior and wanted to keep them subjugated. Employers did not pay wages to women equal to men even for similar nature of work.
He said women had proved they could do everything which the men could do but they were even denied the right of vote in many parts of Pakistan. More than 900 women had been murdered in Punjab alone in the past one year.
Former Lahore High Court Bar Association president Firdaus Butt said the perception that women were weaker than men should be changed for their empowerment. The laws enacted for their empowerment also required to be enforced instead of being kept in the statute books. She said the restoration of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary could help protect the rights of the people, including women.
Former MPA Humaira Awais Shahid praised the media for highlighting the problems being faced by women. She urged women to avoid committing excesses against each other within their houses.
Daud Saqlain of Actionaid Pakistan also spoke.
PWF: Addressing a meeting of public and private sector woman workers at the Bakhtiar Labour Hall, PWF’s women wing chairperson Shabnam Kashif said that an increase in the prices of POL, power and gas tariffs had made it difficult for a majority of the household to make both ends meet in their incomes. People faced difficulties in providing education and medical treatment to their children on account of commercialisation of health and education sectors after the privatisation.
Women attending the meeting marched to Lakshmi Chowk. PWF Deputy Secretary General Osama Tariq said women accounted for 60 per cent of the world’s poor and working poor in the world and unemployment was on the increase among them.
WWH: Speaking at a meeting at Mehfil Auditorium with Azra Shad in chair, WWH Secretary General Bushra Khaliq said Pakistani women were victims of obsolete customs and traditions, feudal culture, gender discriminatory laws, religious fanaticism and hypocrisy of a retrogressive government. The empowerment of women was possible only when they were given equal rights in society.
Labour Party, Pakistan, spokesman Farooq Tariq said the Musharraf government had made the lives of the people miserable by giving free hand to the forces of exploitation and repression. The new government would have to solve the problems faced by Musharraf regime failing which it would also be rejected by the people.
Amna Masood Janjua said mothers, wives and sisters of hundreds of missing people abducted by secret agencies without producing them in courts of law were living in agony.
The participants of the meeting marched to the Lahore Press Club and staged a rally outside it.
PLF: Speaking at a meeting held at the Pakistan Labour Federation office with Attiya Saleem in chair, PLF Secretary General Muhammad Saeed said women workers were facing problems because they were not organised in the form of trade union. Some of the women were being paid only Rs30 wages for 16 hours labour. PLF Senior Vice President Rizwana Yasmin and Legal Advisor Waheed Ahmed Chaudhry and PLF Chairman Maulvi Muhammad Aslam also spoke.
The participants of the meeting marched to the Lahore Press Club afterwards and staged a demonstration outside it.