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March 8, 2019

Civil society calls for end to discrimination against women


March 8, 2019

Rights activists and civil society organisations held various events on Thursday in connection with International Women’s Day to be observed today (Friday).

Speaking at a ceremony, Sindh Minister for Women Development Syeda Shehla Raza said the Sindh government was taking practical steps to empower women in social, economic and political spheres so that the women are able to play their role vigorously for society’s development.

The event had been jointly organised by UN Women, Home Net and the provincial women development department at a local hotel to distribute health insurance cards and launch e-shops for home-based workers.

Raza said the women development department was providing assistance to various organisations that were working for the cause of women empowerment. The minister also lauded the services rendered by UN Women, Home Net and other organisations in this regard and assured them that the government would fully support them.

She congratulated the organisations on holding an important function to support the needy women and home-based workers in Sindh. Raza claimed that among all the provinces in the country, Sindh was unique in terms of its policies and actions regarding women and home-based workers.

Informing the audience about some plans of the women development department, the minister said the department was planning to launch an electronic portal to facilitate home-based workers and other women at grass-roots level.

The Kissan women programme was another positive step being taken for the welfare and wellbeing of women, Raza said. She added that a complaint cell 1094 and women protection cells had been established across Sindh to provide relief and facilities to women.

During the ceremony, a total of 76 health insurance cards and e-shops for home-based workers were respectively distributed and launched for needy women.

Secretary Women Development Department Aaliya Shahid, Secretary Labour Abdul Rasheed Solangi, Director Women Development Department Anjum Iqbal Jumani, Karamat Ali of PILER, Mehnaz Rehman of Aurat Foundation, economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, Provincial Coordinator UN Women Kapil Dev, Umme Laila of Home Net and others also spoke at the event.

Vigil held

The Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) on Thursday held a candlelight vigil in front of the Karachi Press Club on the eve of the 108th International Women’s Day and paid rich tributes to the struggles of women, particularly women workers, for their rights.

A large number of women workers and civil society members attended the event and lit candles to praise the efforts of working women who struggled for the rights of women, challenging social injustice and oppressing forces.

The participants recalled the struggle initiated by women workers of textile industry in 1820 against the capitalist system, which turned into an international movement for social rights and gender justice.

They said it was necessary to talk about the issues related to women workers in order to get them resolved.

Addressing the vigil, United Home-based Women Workers Union general secretary Saira Feroze said the women’s day began to be celebrated on a global level as a result of the efforts of revolutionary leader of women workers Clara Zetkin. According to Saira, like the rest of the world, observing March 8 in Pakistan symbolised the liberation of women, especially the working women, from all sorts of oppression. She maintained that the history of Pakistan showed that women and their representatives always criticised social injustice and attacks on democracy.

She said Tahira Mazhar Ali was the first socialist leader of Pakistan who observed International Women’s Day in the country and she also challenged the oppressing capitalists and feudal lords in the country. Saira also named Comrade Shanta, Afzal Tauseef and Mai Bakhtawar who were great women revolutionaries and who organised movements of women Haris and workers in this country.

The notable Pakistani women who challenged dictatorship included Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto, and Asma Jahangir, who fought the dark forces at the time when even speaking against them was difficult, Saira said.

HBWWF central leader Shabnam Azeem said following the traditions of women’s movement, the Hari women of Okara, lady health workers, home-based working women, affected women of the Baldia factory fire and women belonging to other walks of life had written a new history of their successful struggles.

She added that even today, when warmongering and religious extremism was on the rise and the imperialist financial institutions were trying to enslave the country, the working women and their organisations were resisting such moves and challenging the anti-people policies of rulers.

The participants at the vigil demanded that lives and struggles of great women be included in the curriculum. They called for abolishing all discriminatory laws against women, nationalising the religious seminaries and including them in the mainstream educational system.

They also demanded that armed outfits of religious extremists be not supported and ideologies that support warmongering be banned.

Discriminatory attitude towards women in factories, industries and workplaces should be ended and safety should be given to the working women, the participants said, adding that working women of the informal sector, especially home-based women workers, should be registered with the social security institutions.

The civil society activists also demanded an end to the sacking of media workers and reducing their pays. Legislation should be made to end sexual harassment of Hari women, they said. They also called for protecting rights of the women workers of local and international garment brands as per labour laws.

The participants also urged the authorities concerned to accept the demands of the protesting dock workers.

Those who attended the vigil also included Zahida Baji of the United Home-based Women Workers Union, Saeeda Khatoon of the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association, Nasir Mansoor of National Trade Union Federation, Usman Baloch of Awami Workers Party and columnist Zubair Rehman.

Call for equality

The Women’s Action Forum (WAF), a pressure group that lobbies for equal democratic rights, in particular for women, issued a statement on the eve of International Women’s Day in which it called for rejection of patriarchy and all forms of discrimination against women.

The forum demanded a just economic order to reduce poverty and inequality, with a special focus on eliminating feminist aspects of poverty.

The WAF said it was joining activists around the globe to reassert demands for a peaceful and just society in which all citizens could enjoy without discrimination fundamental human rights as enshrined in the international human rights instruments.

The forum called for action to change the unacceptable inequities in Pakistan that affected women who were 49 per cent of the country’s population. The inequities included literacy rate in the country, which was 47 per cent for women compared to 70 per cent for men; participation in the labour force, which was 24.8 per cent for women and significantly less compared to 82.5 per cent for men; and the number of registered voters as of the 106 million registered voters in Pakistan, only 47 million were women.

One in four women in the country had likely experienced spousal violence in their lifetime, the WAF said, adding that 21 per cent of women were married before the age of 18.

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