ISLAMABAD: To mark International Day of Rural Women, a two-day festival-cum-conference was arranged at Lok Virsa Complex, Garden Avenue, Shakaraparian on Sunday under the aegis of National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage and Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA).
The festivities included women artisans-at-work featuring female master artisans from different parts of the country with their tools, finished and semi-finished products, promotional stalls by NGOs working towards the empowerment of women in Pakistan, a seminar to focus on women’s issues; audio/visual presentations on women’s issues and a folk musical show.
The opening ceremony was held at Lok Virsa Media Studios, which was attended by a large number of people, in particular women, artisans, artists and personalities related to art and culture. During the first day of the event (14 October), besides opening ceremony and inauguration of artisans and partner organisations’ stalls, the efforts remained on consultation on rural women, their economic rights and preparation of rural women manifesto.
The session of the conference concluded with a folk musical show wherein folk artists and musicians entertained audience and participants with their thrilling performances. The organisations that have setup their promotional stalls include PODA, the European Union, ABKT, Strengthening Participation Organisation, Sindh Women’s Welfare Association, Matiari, Shirkatgah, Rural Support Programme Network, Children’s Global Network, Bacha Trust for Education Foundation, Benazir Welfare Trust, Bedari, Pak-Women, IRADA, Rozan, Women Shade (Quetta), Trust for Conservation of Coastal Resources, Acid Survivour Foundation, Awaz Foundation Pakistan, Silk Route (Hunza), SUNGI, South Asia Partnership Pakistan, Catholic Women’s Organisation, Women’s Organisation for Rights and Development, and Food and Agricultural Organisation.
The participants who took part in the conference included Rehana Hashmi from Sisters Trust Pakistan, Adviser to Punjab chief minister Begum Zakia Shahnawaz, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Women Development Sitara Ayaz and others. Explaining the role of his organisation, Lok Virsa Executive Director Khalid Javaid told media, “We were the first cultural organisation in Pakistan that stood behind PODA and supported them in organising a number of cultural and promotional activities to mark the International Rural Women’s Day. This joint strategy has resulted in highlighting achievements of rural women in the development of the country not only at national, but at international level, too. In this regard, contribution of media promoting initiatives aimed at empowerment of rural women is also very encouraging and we are thankful to them for this patronage.”
Khalid Javaid also praised the services of PODA Chairperson Samina Nazir for effectively pooling in efforts of all partners and holding the event “in such a beautiful and organised manner”. Talking about the functions of Lok Virsa, Khalid Javaid said, “Our mandate provides for creating opportunities for the welfare and betterment of master artisans, folk artists and rural musicians, including women folk, as the real bearers of our rich cultural heritage, with a view to facilitate them to earn a good livelihood by practicing traditional knowledge that they inherited from their forefathers from generation to generation.
Over the years, we have been able to undertake a wide range of programmes and projects that are still immensely contributing towards poverty alleviation among the rural people in general and empowerment of rural women in particular. These important activities include Artisans-at-Work Festival, popularly known as ‘Lok Mela’, organised annually at Islamabad, art and craft exhibitions, benefit shows for legendary craftspeople and folk artists, recommendations to the government for grant of highest civil award – Pride of Performance – to the deserving artisans and folk musicians.”
He also thanked his own Ministry of National Heritage and Integration, in particular Minister Samina Khalid Gurki and Secretary Asaf Ghafoor, for enabling Lok Virsa to undertake such important projects aiming to benefit the rural folk. PODA Chairperson Samina Nazir and representatives of other partner organisations also spoke on the occasion and apprised the audience about their plans and projects.
The festival-cum-conference will conclude on Monday with finalisation of manifesto for rural women, passing a resolution suggesting necessary steps for empowerment of rural women and presentation of awards.