LAHORE: A program titled provincial youth conference, jointly held by prominent civil society organizations, was held here on Thursday in connection with the national Women’s Day that commemorates the efforts of women activists against discriminatory laws during the dictatorial regime of Zia ul Haq.
A senior activist cum politician Begum Mahnaz Rafi, one of the founding members of Women Action Forum, while addressing the function as chief guest, hoped that the youth would play a dynamic role in raising their voice against all discriminatory practices and work for a better society. ‘We women were born free and are free,’ she expressed. The program was jointly organized by Aurat Foundation, SAP (South Asian Partnership) Pakistan ngos SPO, Sungi and Awaaz.
Ambreen Fatima from Action Aid while speaking on the behalf of a number of activists declared that eighteen years be declared as the minimum for girls’ marriage. Identity cards for the bride and groom must be rendered mandatory at the time of Nikah. She said that an alliance of sixteen organizations has come up with a draft law regarding prevention of child marriages. ‘After the eighteenth amendment Sindh province has made a new law regarding child marriage but Punjab still has to come up with fresh legislation in this regard,’ she said. ‘Seeing youth as the agent of change, we need support from this vibrant section of society,’ she added
Social mobliser, Umair Ahmed from TT Singh highlighted that birth certificates are changed, and forged documents are made so that early marriage of girls could be solemnised. ‘Youth charter of demand’ which was unanimously agreed on the occasion called for identifying all the issues faced by the youth and making remedial measures. It called for forming a national youth commission at the cabinet level to pursue policies in the interest of young people. The charter of demand also called for making new law to prevent under-aged marriages as the existing law of 1929 is insufficient to check this retrogressive practice in society.
The charter demanded ending of all discriminatory practices against women; equal opportunities for them; development opportunities to enhance leadership qualities of youth; ensure intercultural and interfaith harmony to achieve a tolerant society. The charter enjoined upon the government to announce ‘Youth emergency’ in Pakistan and undertake reforms in the public and private sector for youth development. It also called for at least twenty percent seats for youth in the national and provincial assemblies, as well as establishment of universities/ colleges) in the most underprivileged areas in the country which must give equal access to female students of those areas. Also that laws related to women should be part of the educational syllabus for the awareness of younger generations.