By Naila Anwar Warraich
ISLAMABAD: Speakers on Friday opposed the devolution of the Ministry of Women Development, saying the provinces were unprepared to accommodate a ministry crucial for half the country’s population.
Speaking at a seminar on the “18th Amendment: opportunities and challenges for women”, the speakers said provinces have not done homework and lack infrastructure to take over the ministry.
“The ministry should stay with the federation until the provinces build basic capacity to accommodate a ministry for 50 per cent of Pakistani population,’’ said Rehana Hashmi, executive director Sister Trust.
The speakers acknowledged historical perspective of the 18th amendment like restoration of parliamentary democracy and the assurance of autonomy given to the provinces.
They said for the first time in the history of Pakistan, provincial autonomy has not only been accepted but also preferred over “abstract identity of the federation”.
They said the federation had always been paid undue attention, creating deprivation among provinces.
“The major thing missing is absence of proper discourse over challenges and opportunities both from civil society and media. The major stakeholders seem to be indifferent to a vital and critical ministry,” said Jami Chandio, executive director Centre for Peace and Civil Society.
He said the provinces have got half of their share of natural resources’ royalty after the passage of the 18th amendment, calling it the “biggest space” for the empowerment of women in education, health and socio economic development.
“Provinces can allocate their huge spending over women development sector.”
Mr Chandio also hoped that the media would help create awareness in the provinces on women’s rights. “There is also a need to evoke a sense of responsibility and ownership among provinces on women issues.”
He said after the 18th amendment, provinces would be able to take direct loans from international institutions. “They can spend these loans over genuine women issues.”
He said after the 20 ministries are devolved, provinces can reserve maximum quota for women in these ministries.
The participants also demanded strengthening of National Commission on the Status of Women.
“There is need to fortify the commission by giving it administrative powers as well. It should be made more autonomous so that it can work satisfactorily for safe guarding women rights,’’ said Anis Haroon, chairperson NCSW.