By Asim Yasin
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that the government had a definite agenda for women’s development and empowerment.
“Under a four-pronged strategy, efforts are underway to reduce feminised poverty, promote gender equality, end violence against women and legislate laws to empower the women,” he said, while addressing the National Convention on the International Women’s Day here at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, Information Minister Sherry Rehman and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Sector Shahnaz Wazir were also present on the occasion.
Gilani said the government would soon introduce two bills – the Protection against Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2009, and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2009 – in the National Assembly.
“The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2009, is being finalised in consultation with all stakeholders,” he added. The prime minister said the legislation to enable women to own property and assets was being formulated.
He said the PPP-led coalition government was fully cognisant of the existing critical issues and problems confronting the women, ranging from family life to national life. He said the women were victims of gruesome acts of violence. “It takes the form of honour killings, acid throwing, rapes and forced marriages. It happens also in the form of denial of right to inheritance, demand for dowry and harassment at workplace, and we consider these evils not only as crimes against the women, but crimes against humanity,” he added.
Unfortunately, he said, these crimes had become deep-rooted in the country’s social fabric, centuries-old customs and un-Islamic traditions. “Illiteracy and poverty further compound the issues,” he added.
The prime minister said it was being ensured that the existing 10 per cent quota for women in the public sector jobs was fulfilled and efforts were under way to establish the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centres for Women in every district.
“These centres will provide facilities to women in distress. Gender perspective is being introduced in the policy, planning and programming processes through a national-level Gender Reforms Action Plan,” he added.
He said 33 per cent representation of women in the local government and reserved seats for women in the national and provincial assemblies were significant steps towards this objective. He said nobody could deny the importance and vitality of women’s contribution to the national and international socio-economic development.
“Pakistan, as an active member of the comity of nations, has taken tangible initiatives for an accelerated improvement in the status of the women.” He said his government had been endeavouring to bring about a positive change in the lives of the women within the available resources.
“We want them realise their full potential as equal citizens of the country and there is a full-fledged Ministry of Women Development, which was created in 1989 during the government of Benazir Bhutto,” he added.
Recalling the contribution of the Benazir Bhutto government, he said the then government had made women development a priority and women’s police stations were set up, the First Women’s Bank was established and medical and technical assistance training programmes for women were launched in hospitals across the country.
Similarly, he said, the computer-training programme was initiated in the public sector colleges for women, and a quota of five per cent was reserved for women in the public-sector jobs.He said that in 1996, Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. “It gives me great pleasure to state that all these landmark initiatives were taken by the PPP governments,” he added.
The prime minister said as the tenure of the previous Commission on the Status of Women had expired on December 31, he took this opportunity to announce that the government had nominated eminent women from all the four provinces and other areas, belonging to various walks of life, as members of the commission.
“The commission will be headed by Anis Haroon, a journalist and women’s rights activist, and we all sincerely expect that this newly-constituted commission will be able to provide valuable inputs for the policy formulators and decision makers to achieve the objective of gender equality in our society,” he added.
In her speech, Dr Fehmida Mirza said the government was committed to the development and progress of women.She stressed the need for evolving a favourable environment, where women could be encouraged to build their analytical, political and leadership skills. Speaking on the occasion, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the government gave priority to the protection of women’s rights.
Source: The News
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