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Almost 40 per cent of girls getting married before 18th birthday

MUZAFFARABAD: Early marriage often denies children their basic right to good health, education and freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation.

This was the topic under discussion at the launching ceremony of a new project titled ‘Gender Empowerment and Institutional Development Programme’ on Tuesday.

It was revealed at the event that almost 40 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18, which is a major challenge for women rights.

The project, initiated by Oxfam Novib, is supported by the government of Denmark with a donation of $2.5 million and will be implemented in the four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Bajaur Agency.

On the occasion Oxfam Country Director Arif Jabbar Khan highlighted the organisation’s vision of a society where women and the youth are treated equally with men, and are able to influence decisions that affect their lives while assuming their responsibilities as active citizens.

The project aims to work across Pakistan with young women to enable them to claim, practice and support adherence of their reproductive health rights in a more favourable policy environment and without any discrimination, said Khan.

The chief guest of the event, Ambassador of Denmark Jesper Moller Sorensen, said Danish support to gender equality is their priority. “Promoting gender equality is a consistent feature in all of our development and humanitarian assistance programmes. Our support to work on gender equality is based on a rights-based approach which focuses on improving women’s access to fundamental rights, to resources and to influence,” he said.

The ambassador also highlighted that the project will engage parents and teachers, provincial governments as well as the federal, parliamentarians, media, religious scholars and civil society across Pakistan. “By including these groups, the initiative aims to create an environment for effective citizenship and responsive governance, where people — especially the youth and women — can exercise their reproductive health rights without any discrimination of gender,” said the ambassador.

MNA and chief coordinator of the Prime Minister’s Youth Skills Development Scheme Maiza Hameed affirmed the government’s commitment to empowering the youth of the country and highlighted various initiatives taken by the government to lift young people out of poverty, discrimination and marginalisation.

Express Tribune