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Democracy vital for women’s empowerment: PM

* Gilani says Benazir Bhutto was powerful voice for women’s rights, emancipation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Saturday that as an inheritor of legacy of Benazir Bhutto, the present democratic government has undertaken a number of reforms in legislative, political, administrative and social areas that seek to strengthen the role of women in national mainstream.

“Democracies are always instrumental in advancing the cause of women’s empowerment, while dictatorships muzzle their voices,” Gilani said in his message on National Women’s Day being commemorated across Pakistan today (Sunday) 12 to pay homage to women of Pakistan for their heroic struggle for the attainment of their rights.

The prime minister said, “The day reminds us of women’s relentless fight against dictatorship and oppression, which began in 1983 and has now evolved into a full-fledged movement for women’s empowerment and gender equality.”

Gilani said Benazir Bhutto was a powerful voice for women’s rights and emancipation, adding that she waged an arduous struggle for the empowerment of women throughout her eventful life.

“History will remember her as a great advocate of women’s rights,” the prime minister said and recalled that Benazir once said, “The women who cannot plan her life, plan her family, plan a career, is fundamentally not free. I am determined to change the plight of women in my country. I am determined to harness their potential to the gigantic task of nation building.”

Gilani said the present parliament has a number of pro-women enactments to its credit such as Women’s Protection from Harassment at Workplace Act 2010; Amendment in PPC 509, Acid Crime Prevention Act 2011; the Prevention of anti-Women Practices Act 2011; and Fund for Women in Distress and Detention Act 2011.

Recently, the National Commission on Status of Women had been enacted into an empowered, independent and autonomous body, he said and added these legislative measures constitute a milestone in women’s journey of empowerment and emancipation.

The prime minister said women’s political empowerment cannot be de-linked from the process of economic empowerment; adding that key interventions introduced by the present government included the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) as a flagship programme meant to empower women on sustainable basis.

BISP, a women-oriented programme, provides skill development and technical training, health insurance and loans without markup up to Rs 300,000, he said, and mentioned it had also provided Rs 25,000 to female flood affectees.

The prime minister said the direct cash transfer facility under BISP is benefiting five million households across the country.

Waseel-a-Taleem programme of BISP would target millions of girls to enhance female literacy rate in the country, he added.

He said the present government had encouraged participation of women in national life, adding that women are serving at key positions in the present government as well as in universities.

Gilani, in this respect, mentioned that the speaker of National Assembly, foreign and information ministers were women, adding that it was during the stint of this government that women officers were inducted in Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy.

Source: Daily Times