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Women empowerment package remains dormant

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: Not a single step has been taken to implement the Punjab Women Empowerment Package announced with much fanfare by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif about a month back.

The only step taken immediately after the announcement of the package was the creation of a separate women development department and the appointment of a woman DMG officer as its secretary.

Since then the secretary, who is awaiting a separate office and the staff, is sitting alone in social welfare department offices set up in a rented place. The request for the creation of one post of additional secretary, two posts of deputy secretaries and four of section officers too is facing red tape.

And to show that the new department is doing something, it plans to set up a daycare centre for the children of women employees of the Punjab Civil Secretariat.

But here, too, are some basic problems. The place selected for the centre is the chief secretary’s complaint cell situated near the main gate of the secretariat which now remains closed for security reasons.

The building was constructed during the Pervaiz Elahi’s government and was meant for a gymnasium and a utility store for employees.

Officials say a portion of it has been selected for the daycare centre because either the complaint cell has lost its vigour or the chief secretary is no more interested in it.

They say that running a daycare centre is more difficult than establishing it because any mishandling of any child may create immense problems for the government.A Karachi-based private company specializing in running such centres for women employees of big firms is being contacted. But it says it runs centres where the minimum of children is 15. “Lets see if we meet this requirement or not,” an official says.

Apart from this, half-baked effort which is replete with ifs and buts, all other major parts of the package in which the chief minister had taken a lot of pride, are yet to see the light of day.
The list of such parts especially contains legislation for which no paperwork has been started.

The proposed laws include amendment in the inheritance laws to ensure the rights of women, laws for home-based workers, for crises and rehabilitation held desks, for property rights and equal wages.

The package mentions amendments in rules for securing rights of women in the public sector employment and for their economic empowerment.

“The department meant for having this package is new and needs to itself become fully functional first,” an official remarked. But he still agreed that the stage of enforcing the package lacks the force with which it was announced. “I don’t know the reason, but it is true that the implementation stage lacks urgency,” he said.