In a collaborative effort, the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW) and the Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre on Thursday held a launch where a policy document was presented to the Sindh government.
The policy document, titled ‘Rising to the Challenges: Gender-Responsive Policy Options for COVID-19 & Other Emergencies’, focuses on the various impacts of Covid-19 on women. As per the policy, in events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, women face considerable threats to their economic, physical, legal and social security. It mentions four areas where there is a lack of emergency services, especially exacerbates issues of access and relief for women and girls across the following. They are “health, gender-based violence, education and economic resilience”.
The policy document recommends immediate legislative actions that need to be implemented, such as expanding the definition of essential services to include all gender-based violence response services and mechanisms to safeguard against any disruption during any emergency or disaster situations, and strengthening services and ensuring access for GBV survivors during all emergencies, including COVID-19. The policy also calls for expediting the implementation of the Sindh Reproductive Healthcare Rights Act 2019 to ensure the maximum number of attendance in schools, as safe reopening is essential, especially for female students, in Sindh.
The launch was attended by parliamentarians, civil society members, labour unions’ members and other stakeholders. Notable guests included Barrister Murtaza Wahab, advisor to Sindh chief minister on law and environment; Khawar Mumtaz, former National Commission chairperson on the Status of Women; Nuzhat Shirin, Sindh Commission chairperson on the Status of Women, Javed Akhbar; the DIG south in Karachi and others.
Nuzhat Shirin highlighted the policy document, explaining the immediate actions the SCSW actively partook during the Covid-19 pandemic. “The Sindh government has no tolerance towards violence against women. When women institutions were closed during the Covid-19 lockdown, we were online and we made commissions; we addressed complaints that women had related to rations,” she said.
Farida Shaheed, executive director of the Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, presented key takeaways from the policy document and urged the members of the Sindh government to ensure its timely implementation. Aliya Shahid Secretary of the Women Development Department commended the policy document and stated that under the WDD platform, “Sindh’s legislation is the most pro-women, such as the informal home-based workers act has been passed”.
Dr Talib Lashari said women rights could not be ensured “until human capital is invested in and until poverty and education are not focused on”. Virjee Kholi, Sindh Human Rights Department’s special assistant, said: “We need to implement laws and prevent gender-based violence incidents that affect young girls and women.”
Khawar Mumtaz said the interrelationships of different issues faced by women had been taken into account. She emphasised that the violence against women was the biggest barrier for women being involved in anything.
Dr Yasmin Qazi, B&M Foundation senior advocacy consultant, highlighted the importance of reproductive rights and the need for gender sensitivity among men. Barrister Murtaza Wahab, in his closing remarks, lauded the SCSW and the SG for the launch of the policy document. “We have too many challenges as a country and we need to rise up to the challenges.” Wahab said there was a need for the implementation and deliverance of laws, especially towards the gender-based violence cases.
Newspaper: The News