55pc girls in Pakistan not allowed school, 35pc married before 16th birthday

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Women leaders urge their community to stand up against oppression

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad—In order to commemorate 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence, women community leaders from 45 districts of Pakistan gathered at the Women’s Convention organized on Friday by Awaz programme and called upon the women folk to stand up against oppression.
A joint effort of Awaaz consortium partners including Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP PK), Sungi, Aurat Foundation and UKaid, the convention titled “Recognizing the efforts of women community leaders” was aimed at providing a platform to women community leaders where they could share the challenges they face and success they have achieved at the community level. Provincial Minister for Social Welfare, Sindh, Shameem Mumtaz was the chief guest on the occasion.
The convention started with the introduction of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence by Saima Munir from Aurat Foundation. She talked about four Mirabal Sisters who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and were assassinated on November 25, 1960.
In the memory of these sisters, the world commemorates 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, from International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25 to International Human Rights Day on December 10. Saima hopped that the world will commemorate these 16 Days in the form of a celebration after 50 years.
Speaking on this occasion, Deputy Head of DFID Judith Herbertson said that in 2016’s Pakistan, people are born unequal if they are poor, belongs to minority group or are person with disability but the biggest disadvantage is to be born a woman.
Sharing some basic statistics, she said 55 per cent girls in Pakistan are not allowed school, 42pc girls drop out of school, 35 per cent are married before 16th birthday, 40 per cent experience physical violence, 14,000 women die during child birth, a quarter are in job and get paid and 50 per population experience discrimination.
She said that investing on women have a transformational affect on individuals, society, countries and the world. “My wish is for Pakistani girls is that they don’t die before fifth birthday, receive enough food during earlier life so that their brain can fully grow, they go to school and stay till higher education, do not get early marriage, can take decisions, become financially independent and they can vote and stand for elections,” she said.
She said that unlike United States, Pakistan had women head of state. “The challenges are huge but so is the potential. We need to continue to work together to raise voice and change behavior,” she said.
The event also included a panel discussion where women councilors shared their experiences in politics and urged women to stand up for their rights and become a change agent in their families. They said that physical violence has considerably decreased in the society but the mental violence still exist which is the biggest hurdle in the way of women empowerment.
Those who spoke in the penal discussion included Councilor Amna from Kohat, Councilor Shahida from Swabi, Councilor Asma Shiekh from Mianwali, Councilor Abida from Lahore, Councilor Farzana from Rawalpindi, councilor Riffat Sultana from Faisalabad. Representative from transgender community from Jhang Bota Arif was also part of the penal.
In another session, women members of Provincial Assemblies shared their experience. MPA Balochistan Hussan Bano said that every day is women’s day. MPA from Punjab Raheela Khadim Hussain talked about the measures taken by Punjab government for women empowerment. “Those who call us conservative are not ready to vote for Hillary only because she is a woman,” she said.