By Tasneem Yaseen
Women of Pakistan face many trials; they not only have to deal with misogyny and skewered social mores but they also have daily challenges that make even the most menial of tasks difficult. In such a scenario any help that can be provided to women to better their lives is welcome. In this respect the Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit-Law & Order in collaboration with UN Women has launched a Street Theatre Campaign to create awareness regarding the various challenges faced by women and means to address them. The campaign is scheduled for Multan, Lahore and Faisalabad from the 5th to the 10th of December in various public spaces and institutions. Lahore has already had performances on 5th December in Anarkali and Liberty Market which were well received.
The Special Monitoring Unit-Law and Order is an initiative of the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office and ever since its inception in 2014 it has been working in collaboration with Punjab’s government departments to introduce reforms in law and order. It is a think tank and the idea is that it design and implement ground breaking reforms which impact citizens significantly. This is an endeavour with a lot of thought behind it for its long term benefits are immense.
Since 2014 Special Monitoring Unit (SMU) has initiated reforms on but not limited to excise and taxation, transport, police, traffic police, libraries and social welfare of the citizens. Some of the projects the unit undertook are drafting and passage of Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016, setting up of South Asia’s first Violence against Women center converging all justice delivery services at one point; which include First Aid, FIR lodging, Prosecutor, Medical Examination, Forensics as well as post trauma rehabilitation.
Another good step is the Policing Model: SMU is working in collaboration with CCPO Lahore Office to establish Law Enforcement Centres, U-report website and revamp police 15 helpline. Other projects pertaining to Excise and Taxation are Token Tax identification stickers, Specialty Plates and South Asia’s first Dealer Vehicle Registration System (D.V.R.S) through which license plate issuance will take place at dealerships. Traffic reforms, establishment of model graveyards, mobile libraries, launching of Women on Wheels campaign and restaurant grading system are also some of the projects of Special Monitoring Unit.
The unit’s team has analysts and interns working for it and is in the process of conducting research on international legislations and practices as models for reforms in Punjab. Considering its budget which is only 2 million rupees annually the unit has had considerable impact.
Women empowerment and awareness campaigns have been run before but nothing like this initiative. The street theatre performances will range in theme from Violence Against Women (VAW) in the private and public space, to women’s mobility and the solutions provided for the challenges faced by women through SMU- Law & Order and UN Women’s various initiatives. The performances include stories inspired from SMU- Law & Order Women-on-Wheels campaign whereby 1500 women across Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Sargodha have taken motorcycle trainings. These stories include women who have now attained independence in fulfilling their daily tasks ranging from dropping their children to school, to supporting their families and attaining their own education.
The performances will be executed by Interactive Resource Centre (IRC) and will be from the point of view from both men and women, questioning the embedded patriarchy in our society. They will be followed by an interactive session with the audience to hear their views and hopefully move them to consider how together each of us may contribute to making lives better for women.
SMU has received international recognition for its work and it has shown the world that we in Pakistan can also think outside the box and work on solutions that are suited to us. Now this collaboration with UN women’s street theatre initiative is another feather in its cap. Hopefully the response by the public will be positive and challenges faced by women will be duly acknowledged.