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December 11, 2019

Canada supports women human rights cause in Pakistan


December 11, 2019

Islamabad: It is a fundamental human right that women and girls should have the same access to education, sports and economic opportunities as their male counterparts, said Canadian High Commissioner Wendy Gilmour on Tuesday.

“When women are empowered, families and communities benefit," she told a function held in Mardan city to screen the Canadian documentary film, The Boxing Girls of Kabul.

The High Commission of Canada collaborated with the Abdul Wali Khan University to offer an exclusive screening as part of the Human Rights Reel Film Festival taking place in 10 cities across Pakistan. The festival is organised by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) in collaboration with sixteen EU and UN member states, as well as educational and cultural institutions across Pakistan, to mark 16 days of Activism against gender-based violence.

The film, The Boxing Girls of Kabul, touches on themes of women’s empowerment and gender roles.

It follows three young women boxers and their coach at Afghanistan’s female boxing academy, as these athletes confront many challenges in their efforts to represent their country in international competition and attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The high commissioner thanked the staff and leadership of Abdul Wali Khan University for hosting the film and discussion, and for highlighting the importance of respect for human rights in all endeavours.

Member of the National Assembly from Mardan Shaheen Naz Saifullah, who was also in attendance, encouraged male students to facilitate female counterparts in their family and circles of friends, not only to get higher education but in achieving their dreams. She hoped that in future women would be able to achieve their goals in life with the support of their parents, brothers and husbands. "This is the only way forward for Pakistan to progress," she said.

Following the screening, students participated in a panel discussion with human rights activist and documentary filmmaker Samar Minallah Khan; the first anti-harassment Ombudsperson of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dr Rukhshanda Naz, and General Manager, Sports, at the Pakistan Cricket Board, Yahya Ghaznavi.

Ms Samar Minallah, who is known for her special focus on highlighting women’s issues through digital media, spoke about the need for portraying a positive image of women in the media. "Film can play an important role in breaking the silence around human rights violations. It has the power to generate a discussion and bring about tangible solutions," she said.

Ms. Naz talked about the need for proper labour laws to improve women’s economic empowerment. "Empowering women workers in the informal economy is key to expanding their choices, improving their livelihoods and advancing gender equality.

"In recent years, the Federal and Provincial Governments have undertaken a number of initiatives to achieve the goal of gender equality through policy and legislative measures particularly for women in the workforce.

However, the labour of women is not represented accurately in government databases due to large numbers involved in the informal sector and in home-based and family business and therefore, the recommendations in the Women Empowerment Policy 2017 are not being adequately reflected in the labour laws. This needs to change,” she said.

Linking back to the theme of the documentary, Yayha Ghaznavi highlighted the role of Sport in promoting the rights of women and gender equality. “There is no sport in the Olympics now which is competed by males alone, which signifies a positive trend with regards to opportunities for both men and women,” he said.

The event generated meaningful discussion amongst female and male students, faculty and human rights advocates around the issues of early marriage, domestic abuse and harassment, the importance of an enabling environment for women/girls, and the perception of men towards women’s economic empowerment.