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Proposed women rights review body faces delay

PESHAWAR, Dec 15: The formation of women commission, a review body proposed by NWFP Social Welfare and Women Development Department, is likely to be delayed as the government has linked its approval to its endorsement by finance and law departments.

The proposal to form a non-political 15-member women commission was presented before the cabinet in its meeting held on Monday for approval but it decided to seek the advice of finance and law departments about the proposal, sources said.

Provincial Minister for Social Welfare and Women Development Sitrara Imran of Awami National Party has been propagating the proposal since assuming the charge of her office.

It is pertinent to mention that Gender Reform Action Plan (Grap) has also been lying with the finance department for approval since October 2008.

“Despite lapse of so much time Grap is still lying with the finance department for its approval,” said an official.

The proposed commission would review all existing laws and propose amendments if they were found detrimental to women’s rights, official at social welfare and women development department said.

The official said the most important function of women commission would be holding inquiries in incidents where women’s rights had been violated for example honour killing and Vani or Swara cases.

The official said that the proposal after approval by the cabinet would be presented to the provincial assembly to make it a statutory body working legally under the NWFP Assembly Act.

The official added that commission members would be leading and experienced women from different fields. The chairperson of the commission would be appointed for three-year tenure. The commission will also establish offices in the districts.

Ms Imran said that women commission would be able to take grants and funds from various sources as provincial government was not in a position to provide funds to it on sustainable basis.

She, however, said that Asian Development Bank had offered to provide one-time grant for setting up offices and equipment for the women commission.

The minister said that she was also trying to get Grap, which remained unapproved by the former Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal government, approved.

“The provincial government is still facing financial constraints, a reason for the delay in approval of Grap, an initiative which focuses on gender mainstreaming and proposes key reforms in areas of political participation, institutional structures, women employment in public sector and policymaking and fiscal processes in government,” the official said.

While the Grap draft is still lying with the finance department for the last few months, the social welfare and women development department is trying to take small steps for ensuring women empowerment.

“We plan to set up daycare centres at all the government departments, civil secretariat and even hospitals and educational institutions.

The provincial government has also launched a bus service for women commuters on Tuesday (today). Such small steps could help empower women even in the face of financial and cultural problems,” the minister said.
Source: Dawn