By: ASMA RAZAQ
Prior to the upcoming elections 2012-13, the political parties and government institutions must ensure valid registration of rural women as voters, while the overall women representation in Parliament must be ensured at a minimum of 33 percent and at the most 50 percent.
This was the crux of two-day annual conference on ‘International Day of Rural Women’ organised here by Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) along with 37 partner organisations. The conference emphasised the role of rural women in overall development of the country while encouraging them to stand for their rights. Speaking at the conference, Federal Minister for National Heritage and Integration Samina Khalid Ghurki said that, “Rural women are our pride and their contribution to rural life is of utmost importance, we need to give them land ownership rights, better access to health, education, livelihood, political representation and their new role in policy making”.
Federal Minister said that rural women were the custodian of our great cultural values, and their role in the rural life of Pakistan was highly appreciable. Nafisa Shah, MNA (PPP) said, “As Pakistan struggles to contain rising extremism, and uphold the rule of law, there is a crucial need to promote the engagement of women as moderating force within the country”.
Women offer fresh perspectives for conflict prevention and resolution. They are critical resources for building peace and rebuilding communities. The gender equality does not imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment, Nafisa added.
“Rural women of Pakistan have been struggling continuously for long to share the responsibilities of their husbands. The present government has fulfilled its commitment with the women of Pakistan as the Sexual Harassment Bill and Anti-Acid Throwing Bill have been passed by the Parliament”, Nafisa said.
While expressing their personal views, some rural women stressed that the women of Pakistan should have equal rights of land inheritance. Ending violence against women is an attitude that has to be taken back to homes, communities, workplaces and society at large.
Najma, who belong to a village of Sindh, complained that despite being the major food producers, women in Pakistan remain dependent on their male relatives for access to land. Women, who supply a significant part of agriculture labour, are systematically denied the right to own or inherit land. Sughra Khanam, who belong to a village of Punjab said that along with provision of cash grant eg Rs 1000 per month through Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), the government should start other schemes to provide employment to the poor women to make them financial independent.