By: Hassan Naqvi
LAHORE: The travelling journal on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), titled Our Stories, One Journey: Empowering Rural Women in Asia Pacific, will arrive in Pakistan on June 11, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The journal will be sent by post to 13 countries in Asia-Pacific – Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Sri Lanka and three countries in Africa – Benin, Mali and Senegal. Its aim is to highlight women’s leadership in strengthening movements, influencing policies and enabling systemic change.
The journal started its journey on February 6 from the Philippines. It will reach Pakistan after travelling through Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Nepal and India. In Pakistan, the partner organisation is Shirkat Gah.
The journal intends to represent rural women’s perspective on poverty, food sovereignty and sexual and reproductive health.
The project’s objectives are to share the perspectives of rural women from various regions. It intends to draw lessons from their experiences, resilience, innovativeness and strategies in addressing poverty, hunger and gender inequality. It aims to raise awareness and inform policymakers and the public about women’s reproductive health. Dr Tabinda Sarosh, senior manager of SRHR at Shirkat Gah, told The Express Tribune that rural women in Pakistan frequently lacked safe water, food and shelter. She said the recent drought crisis in Thar was an example of a government’s failure to anticipate the disaster, plan for its prevention or respond effectively.
Sarosh said rural women who actively participated in agriculture, industries, and domestic chores were unable to access their share of financial compensation, social opportunities and legal protection. She said that despite their contributions to household income, women often did not have a say in major decisions including contraception and reproductive health care.
“Pakistan’s fertility rate is higher than Bangladesh’s, and its maternal mortality ratio is the highest in South Asia. Hidden behind these figures are vulnerable women, who are not faceless or voiceless. They have a story that needs to be heard when high level meetings take place at national, regional and international platforms, where decisions are taken that impact the life and health of an ordinary woman, “ Sarosh said.
She said the issue of women’s rights and health often took a backseat. In the wake of the post-2015 development agenda, strong advocacy for these issues was needed to produce concrete strategies that address the gaps in policies. “The idea of a travelling journal was born out of the attempt to give voice to ordinary rural women, who are doing an extraordinary amount of work to improve their lives and those of others around them. The journal will record stories of women from various countries who are battling against the odds to make a difference to the lives of women around them,” said Sarosh