By: Sehrish Wasif
ISLAMABAD: The rhetoric of all political parties of empowering women seems a mere gimmick in the wake of non-implementation of most of the acts on women’s rights.
This non-serious attitude of the political leaders has coupled the miseries of women, especially the rural women.
This was the crux of a talk of the rural women who shared their plight at the concluding session of a two-day conference on the International Day of Rural Women, which concluded here on Thursday.
The women said that the rural women of Pakistan did not have access to education, quality healthcare services, employment opportunities, proper shelter and nutritious food. Around 1,200 rural women from 80 districts of Pakistan participate in the conference, organised by the Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA) and the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF).
A family from a village near Jaffarabad, Balochistan, who had lost their home, cattles and other valuables during 2010 and 2012 floods, said that all their belongings were swept away by the floods.
“Before the floods, we had been living a happy life, but the deluge destroyed everything that we had. We do not have money to even rebuild our destroyed homes,” said Najma and Shama.
They both said that they work in the fields of a landlord and were being paid only Rs60 to Rs70 in return.
“When we demand for better wages, we are asked to stop working and go home,” said Najma adding that their area also did not have electricity, gas, hospitals and schools.
Saeed Gul, a social worker from Kalash Valley, said that there was only one high school in her area which lacked basic facilities, forcing parents not to send their daughters to the school.
Jahan Ara, who is working with the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said that due to recurring terrorist attacks in the province, women were scared to go out which “was a major setback in our struggle to empower them”.
She said that a number of women in KP have lost their male family members and they were suffering from mental agony and no one was paying attention to their miseries.
“Every day, we work for more than 11 hours in fields but in return, we are paid only Rs200,” said Shamoo, Malli and Lachmi from Tharparker, while talking to The Express Tribune.
They said that besides working in the fields, they also had to care of their children and do household chores including fetching water from far away wells.
“W are poor and helpless. If we were educated we did not have to suffer what we are going through currently. There is no school in our area,” said Lachmi.
While talking about healthcare services for women in her area, she said that there was no hospital in Tharparker for women to deal with birth related cases.
Chief Executive of Khwendo Kor, an NGO working in KP, Maryam Bibi, told The Express Tribune that the condition of women in KP, especially in far-flung areas, was lamentable.
Former chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women Anis Haroon said that it was needed to be seen if the current government takes initiatives to empower women by passing the pending pro-women bills and effectively implementing the ones, already passed by former governments.
Samia Liaquat Ali Khan of the PPAF said that women cannot be empowered, unless they were included in the decision making process.
Later, a resolution was passed demanding implementation of pro-women laws, 33 per cent representation at all levels, allotment of land to landless women and provision of financial assistance to acid crime victims.
The PODA-Arif memorial award for human rights was awarded to director Orangi Pilot Project late Parveen Rehman for her services for the maginalised women.