Monday May 20, 2024

Watchdog formed to implement pro-women laws

By Zia Ur Rehman
March 08, 2017

Comprises rights activists, government officials and media persons

To perform as an effective and assertive body to play its role in implementing the recently passed pro-women laws, the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) has formed a Provincial Steering Forum comprising civil society and women rights activists, government officials and media personnel.

A number of leading civil society and women rights activists, parliamentarians, officials from various government departments, including health, social welfare and women development, police and journalists attended the forum’s launch at a hotel on Tuesday.

Under the project titled ‘Policy Advocacy & Research to Strengthen Implementation of Pro-Women Legislation & Gender-Based Violence Response Services in Sindh’, the forum will facilitate effective implementation of laws and serve as a catalyst to generate discussion in and around corridors of policymakers.

Terming it a “movement”, speakers at the meeting said the newly formed forum would force the government to implement pro-women laws, such as ‘Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013’, ‘Anti-Women Practices 2011’ and ‘Domestic Violence (Prevention & Protection) Act 2013’.

SPO Executive Director Naseer Memon said the federal and provincial governments had passed several pro-women legislations in the recent years, which was a significant move. “But implementation of these laws is the most difficult stage and their strict implementation is the only way forward to ensure relief to women.”

SPO Senior Programme Specialist (Gender) Shazia Shaheen said the forum would comprise representatives of various government departments, such as women development, social welfare, health, human rights and planning & development, and police.

In addition, civil society activists who are already involved in similar advocacy and lobbying initiatives as well as media personnel are included to broader the mandate and cause of the forum, she added.

John O’ Brien and Ishrat Jabeen, representatives of Trócaire, an Irish charity working against poverty and injustices, discussed their organisation’s engagements in Pakistan.

Rana Ansar, secretary of the Sindh Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and chairperson of the Sindh Assembly’s Standing Committee on Women’s Development, and MPA Naheed Begum supported the newly formed watchdog and vowed to work with it on provincial level.

The participants also highlighted various issues relating to pro-women laws and their implementation. They discussed the role and responsibilities of the forum, which would work as a voluntary watchdog to oversee the process of implementation of ‘Rules of Business’ developed under the pro-women laws.

The forum is also expected to liaise and conduct lobbying meetings to include some development schemes in the Annual Development Plan for effective implementation of laws, such as strengthening of the ‘Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Act 2015’, sufficient allocation of funds for its smooth functioning, shelter homes, provision of basic facilities at police stations, appointment of female medico-legal officers at district and tehsil headquarters and all major hospitals, availability of forensic labs at district and tehsil level, and forming provincial and district level protection committees.

Sindh Human Rights Commission’s Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi, SPO Board of Directors Sindh Member Sadiqa Salahuddin, Shirkat Gah’s Sarah Zaman, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research’s Zulfiqar Shah, Aurat Foundation’s Mehnaz Rehman, Awami Awaz Editor Dr Ayoub Shaikh, City Division SP Shehla Qureshi, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum’s Jameel Junejo, youth activist Naghma Shaikh and SPO’s Ellahi Bakhsh Baloch also attended the programme.