ISLAMABAD: Maryam Nawaz Sharif on Monday said women parliamentarians holding a unique position could prove as agents of change in societies.“They are the leaders who could redefine democracy and ensure social justice in the times to come,” Maryam said while addressing a three-day International Conference on the Role of Women Parliamentarians in Strengthening Democracy and Social Justice inaugurated by Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Monday.
Amidst a galaxy of 29 women parliamentarians from 12 countries and a large gathering of MNAs, senators, academia, diplomatic corps and civil society, Maryam Nawaz and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb were also present.
Maryam Nawaz was the guest of honour at the inaugural session on behalf of her mother Kulsoom Nawaz while the chief guest on the occasion was Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq. Patron of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) Dr Fehmida Mirza, former speaker National Assembly, and Secretary Women’s Parliamentary Caucus Shaista Pervaiz Malik also spoke on the occasion.
The event was widely attended by parliamentarians, diplomats, representatives from the media, civil society organisations, universities and activists. Organised by the WPC, the participating countries include Australia, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, Sri Lanka and Turkey. The conference aims at initiating a dialogue amongst women parliamentarians on developing mechanisms, legislations and policies to prioritise women empowerment among governments of respective countries.
The keynote speakers in the inaugural session held on Monday highlighted the basic question as to how women parliamentarians’ networks can build alliances to effectively support their oversight, legislative and representative roles at parliament to achieve social justice for all in democratic societies.
Addressing the conference, Maryam Nawaz urged the women parliamentarians to become a harbinger of good news for their female compatriots by championing and encouraging them. “The person behind a successful woman is not necessarily a man, but could be a tribe of women,” she said, adding that healthy dialogue and unity would make women stronger. She felicitated the National Assembly speaker and the WPC for organising the conference with an objective to highlight fundamental issues of rights and responsibilities and also to add the voice of Pakistani and South Asian women to the universal discourse.
Sharing her insight on the role of women parliamentarians, she said “the struggle of women in all parts of world, especially ours, has never been an easy one”.
Recognising the achievements and contributions of women in Pakistan’s history, she said, “We celebrate the women heroes of our country like the first Muslim women Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, Air Force pilot Maryum Mukhtiar, youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and Academy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. It’s the women who serve as the agents of change, and even our Islamic history is full of exemplary women leadership.”She felt proud to acknowledge the services rendered by her mother Kulsoom Nawaz in leading the country’s struggle against dictatorial rule, a legacy she plans to take forward.
Maryam said a strong tradition of female leadership existed back to the era of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) with his wife Hazrat Khadija as a businesswoman, and later Fatima Jinnah, who worked alongside Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah for Pakistan. She mentioned that women in many parts of the world faced problems which were punctuated by honour killings, emotional torture and violence. She said even in developed parts of world, women were working harder but being paid less as compared to men.
“Every woman sitting here is a living icon of struggle, resilience and courage and the problems could be overcome by the upstanding women like you,” she said.
Maryam said immense problems were being faced by women as they struggled for their basic rights, health, economic opportunities and social freedom. “We must recognise the gap and strengthen the state in providing adequate protection to the disadvantaged communities for equitable roles alongside men and against discrimination,” she said, adding, “We must not allow a weakened status for women in societies.”
She said it was fortunate to belong to a religion that encouraged family values, adding that with those values, the goals of justice and freedom of thought could be achieved. “We, as nation, aspire to be freed from the tyranny of dictatorship, free of poverty and fear,” she added.
Ayaz Sadiq while speaking on the occasion applauded the role of women parliamentarians in Pakistan as well as around the world. “Women have paid a heavy price for their unwavering struggle and resilience,” Ayaz Sadiq said.
Sharing the statistics, he said the women parliamentarians around the globe make up 23 percent of legislators and eight percent of peace agents. “Our WPC has been highly effective and efficient being the instrument of change, always actively involved in crucial legislation on issues of women, children and vulnerable segments of society,” he said.
The speaker also shared that in the present National Assembly of Pakistan, women parliamentarians have performed exceptionally as 60 percent parliamentary business was conducted by them.
“I am proud to share that women members of parliament are performing their roles in various capacities such as parliamentary secretaries, always well prepared as compared to men counterparts, ministers and chairs of parliamentary committees,” he said.
Dr Fehmida Mirza emphasised that as the first woman speaker of National Assembly, she has seen what determined women are capable of.Commenting on the event, she said this conference serves as a tribute to all women who stayed determined and achieved heights in face of insurmountable difficulties.