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‘Women IDPs discriminated against’

By Sher Khan

LAHORE: The government and aid organisations need to stop discrimination against women in the camps set up for people displaced by last summer’s massive floods, said panelists at a seminar arranged by the Aurat Foundation at a hotel here on Tuesday.

“In many of these areas there are parallel judicial systems and customs in which women are not provided rights. The emphasis should be to make sure that they get their legal rights,” said Humaira Shaikh, the humanitarian response coordinator for Shirkat Gah, at the seminar, which was about internally-displaced persons (IDPs) with a focus on women.

Shaikh said there had also been discrimination against women in the issuance of Watan cards. She said that there were some cases in which widows were unable to receive cards because they weren’t accepted as the heads of their families, as this was usually a man. She recommended that community centres be made for women to deal with issues of health, rights and labour.

Shaikh said that in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa there were many cases of gender-based violence within the camps. In Swat, she said, family planning facilities should be provided in the refugee camps.

Salman Haider, a research scholar and lecturer at Fatima Jinnah University, presented a paper about the challenges facing the IDPs. These, he said, included non-accessibility of resources, lack of preventative measures, dissatisfactory identification of IDP rights and lack of input from IDPs regarding management of their facilities.

“An official discourse on IDPs’ rights has not been provided,” said Haider. “We don’t see a role for the displaced in the management of camps and the registration of IDPs saw a lot of problems.”

MPA Shameela Aslam gave an overview of the government’s rescue, relief and rehabilitation activities. She said that the floods had displaced 3 million people. During her visits to the flood-affected areas, Aslam said that it was amazing to see how the public had stood with the government.

Daud Saqlain, programme manager for Lahore Action Aid, said the biggest impact of the floods was economic: the loss of jobs and livelihoods. He also said that there should be a debate regarding the benefits of war, since it had created many of Pakistan’s internal refugees.

Justice (retired) Nasira Iqbal said that a 1998 UN declaration of IDPs’ rights had not been applied in the country and Pakistan had the most IDPs outside Africa. “Our policies have to be brought up to par with international standards,” said Iqbal.

“We have to be prepared in advance and there should be a 24-hour cell that monitors potential disasters.”

Around 40 politicians, rights activists and experts attended the seminar.

Source: The Express Tribune


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