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Demand for women empowerment

KARACHI: Referring to a United Nations report that one in three women around the world was exposed to violence, speakers at a seminar called for women empowerment so that they became aware of their rights and could raise their voice in case any injustice was done to them.

They were speaking here on Sunday at the seminar which was part of launching of campaign “One Billion Rising” — a global drive to highlight violence against women.

The event was organised by the Aurat Foundation at the Arts Council where, a seminar, a theatre and a concert on the theme of violence against women were also held to support the cause. Various non-profit organisations set up their stalls to showcase their work as well.

Speaking on ‘General Violence’, Sindh Women Development Minister Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto said violence against women was a global issue and was happening around the world, but the difference was social and legal institutions which were in place to provide protection to women survivors. Some institutions had also been set up here and situation had improved a lot, but still there was room for improvement.
She said efforts were needed to be made jointly by the government, NGOs and civil society to create awareness among women about their rights so that they could not only speak up but also stood up whenever an injustice was done to them.

Speaking on the ‘Legal System and Violence against Women’, former chief of the National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) retired Justice Majida Rizvi said that though over the years many a laws had been formulated to protect the rights of women, their implementation was poor owing to which women ended up suffering.

A senior women rights activist and former NCSW chief, Anis Haroon, said the “One Billion Rising” was a global campaign started by a civil society activist Eve Ensler in the West to end violence against women.

It had been taken up by different countries around the globe to mobilise the grass root communities, individual men and women, intellectuals, politicians to raise their voices against violence against women.

She said the campaign was about brave women survivors breaking their silence, telling their stories, risking their lives and helping others to do the same. It was about holding perpetrators accountable and ending impunity and speaking back to governments and international elite.

It was about putting the issue of violence against women right in the centre of the conversation, culture and media. It was about turning shame to strength and pain to power.

Farhat Parveen said Pakistan was a signatory to different ILO conventions but failed to ensure that the workers were given the rights that had been provided in these international agreements. She said that these conventions provided that equal employment opportunity for all without any discrimination on the basis of gender, but the women workers were not provided with equal opportunities and even not paid the same wages that were given to the man workers doing the same work.

Linking domestic’s violence with the OBR campaign, Dr Masooma Hassan said efforts should be made to reduce domestic violence.

Some data was also shared with the audience by the organisers who said that in 2011, the total number of violence cases against women reported in Pakistan was 8,539, which was higher by 6.74 per cent than in the previous year in which 8,000 cases had been reported. But these figures did not represent a true picture.

Though violence against women (VAW) was widely prevalent in Pakistan, a vast number of cases were not registered by police and the media only heard about the most gruesome and shocking incidents. This was because VAW was still considered a private issue. Women hesitated to speak out against the humiliation they had suffered, or were afraid of more violence if they spoke.

Senior journalist Baber Ayaz and others also spoke.

At the end of the seminar, Dr Masooma Hasan formally launched a poster “Enough!” which says no more violence against women! On 14th of February one billion rising in every corner of the world in preparation, let us start mobilising people and organising activities now!