Pakistan: Seminar on "Women's voices and hidden pain [read *from men's domestic violence*]" Print E-mail
 Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

Over 7,870 cases of violence against women in 2007

By our correspondent

Scroll down to read of the many other IWD activities in Pakistan


Karachi: More than 7870 cases of violence against women were reported in 2007. This was stated by Zia Ahmed Awan, an advocate and president of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) while speaking at a seminar titled “Women’s voices and hidden pain”, organised by Madadgaar Helpline, with the collaboration of LHRLA along with UNICEF.

He said that these women had been subjected to regular abuse, mental and physical torture, assaults, some sexual in nature. The women described the violence and how they had been isolated and then persecuted when they cried for help and justice.

Zia said that violence was everywhere and those who speak about it in public do not really know what is the pain really like as they have never experienced it themselves. The media reports only a miniscule number of cases.

Several women victims were invited to tell their ordeal to help sensitise the media, the public, the judiciary and the politicians.

Dr Shahista Wahidi said that until the day when feudal system and inequality is eliminated from the Pakistani society, it is the duty of NGO’s and the media to highlight these issues, sensitize the public and to motivate the society into action.

She called for a more comprehensive law over domestic violence.

Ms Hashmi, who heads SOS Village, said that men are the one’s who are not getting the proper Islamic education and that is the reason why they do not respect women and indulge in such criminal practices. She suggested that the media cover these cases in a way that other people could gain vital knowledge about such happenings and draw lessons.

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Pakistan ~~ March 06, 2008 Thursday Safar 27, 1429

OFF THE RACK: For all women who struggle

By Zubeida Mustafa
(Fahim Siddiqi / White Star)

March 8 is International Women’s Day. For every woman who understands the meaning of this day, it has a different message. But the majority of the 80 million or so women and girls in Pakistan would not know what March 8 is all about. They would not have heard of Clara Zetkin, a leader of the Social Democrats in Germany, who launched the first women’s day in 1911. Neither would they know what her aims were.

Yet quite a few of our women are feminists in their own way. True they may not be able to articulate their sentiments or argue about their rights on a highly intellectual plane. But more importantly, they have the sensitivity to understand that there is something amiss in their life. They have the spirit to defy the status quo and they have the courage to struggle for change. It is the life and struggle of these women that I want to celebrate this international women’s day.

So I dedicate this article to Parveen, in her thirties (her guesstimate), and to many like her in Pakistan. Her life story, so typical of millions of women in this country, can be summed up in a few words. The eldest of nine siblings, she went to school for three years, had to give up her studies to marry a man totally illiterate and thrice her age when she was twelve, gave birth to five children in as many years and has had to work throughout her married life, as a housemaid, to support her family as her husband is mostly unemployed.

What is there to celebrate in such a wretched life, you may well ask. First there are those vignettes in Parveen’s memory that settled deep in her subconscious and energised and inspired her. These images have lit the way and imbued her with resilience and determination that keep her going in the most difficult of times.

Image 1: Her mother, an illiterate woman, arguing with her husband (also illiterate), and getting her way to send Parveen to school.

Image 2: Her mother screaming, “My daughter is still a child. She is too young for marriage” but not having her way this time because her husband beat her and locked her up in a room when the qazi came to perform the nikah.

Ever since her life has not been easy sailing. How did Parveen respond to the many crises that beset her life? “I was not happy. I felt my life had reached a dead-end. And then I decided that I would make my children’s life different. It had to change. So my mind was made up. They would have to go to school. It has been a long struggle to keep them in school. The biggest resistance has come from my husband, but I have fought tooth and nail to keep the children’s education going.”

Neither will her daughters be given away in marriage in their childhood. Her first born, a girl 17 years of age, has yet to be married. The younger one is in school and doing very well. Her regret is that her elder two children –– a girl and a boy –– did not study, though she sent them to school. “You see. I was myself a child and could not play the mother’s role. I didn’t know how to discipline them when they played truant. I have been a mother in the true sense of the word to the younger three.”

It is Parveen’s capacity of self-analysis that is amazing. She understands how she can improve her children’s life so that they don’t undergo the sufferings that have been her lot.

Isn’t that feminism? She has struggled against heavy odds and a patriarchal system to achieve even this which many of us take for granted. But for Parveen, it amounted to reaching out for the moon. She did not hesitate.

That is what the International Women’s Day is all about. Generally it is taken to mean a day to commemorate the collective struggle that women wage for women’s rights. That is important. But equally important is the struggle to create an awareness in women about themselves, about their rights and about their capacities. This awareness is the first step to empowerment. Without empowerment there can be no emancipation.

Where the state should not fail the numerous Parveens of this country is in providing them the opportunity and maximum facilities for self improvement. This is possible if there is greater social justice for all.

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 Pakistan ~~March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

TIMERGARA: Honour killing claimed 25 lives in Dir last year

By Haleem Asad

TIMERGARA, March 8: In spite of the fact that the International Women’s Day will be observed across the globe on Saturday with traditional pledges for the protection of women rights, the women folk in Lower Dir continue to face problems affecting their lives and status in society.

Women in Lower Dir have been barred from exercising their political, social and economic rights. In the recent general elections women in the district were deprived of their right to vote. Honour killings as well as cases related to “Swara” have been reported in the district.

According to reports collected from different police stations and published in various national newspapers 16 women and nine men were killed in honour related crimes last year.

According to Khall police, one Muhtaj son of Mian Gul killed Awal Zeb, 23, in Toormang Dara when he was on his way to his home in June last year. Later, Muhtaj went to his home and killed his sister-in-law on the suspicion that she had illicit relations with Awal Zeb.

Similarly on February 3, a resident of Haya Serai Muhammad Jan killed his sister-in-law and a man Gul Zar son of Haider on the suspicion of having illicit relations. On February 24, a girl and a boy Ihsanullah were murdered over allegedly having illicit relations in Dog Dara.

In June, a couple was killed in Gujranwala, Punjab. Sources said that Uzma 18 had married a boy Shabir in her neighbourhood on her own free will against the permission of her parents. The couple had fled to Karachi and then shifted to Gujranwala where they were traced and killed.

Similarly, another couple was killed in Ouch, Lower Dir on November 11, sources said, adding that the girl Khaista Begum and the boy Islam Zeb had married on their own violating the family’s decision. People said that the elders of the girl’s family ‘deceived’ the couple and invited them to their home but when they reached they were allegedly killed by the girl’s relatives.

On March 27, a man Amir Hassan killed his wife Shamim Akhtar in village Bakandai in the jurisdiction of Ouch polling station. The man suspected his wife of having illicit relation with someone. Similarly, a man Rehmat Zeb, allegedly opened fire on his wife Zeenat Bibi, while she was offering prayers, in Khadag Zai village on March 26.

Later on the accused also killed his brother Bahadar Zeb, on the pretext that his wife and his brother had illicit relations.

On June 1, a women Naheed Bibi and a man Bakht Shah Zeb were allegedly killed by Naheed’s in laws in Osorai village. On July 9, a man shot his wife Zahira, an infant baby and two other women relatives dead, in Rabbat Dara due to unknown reasons, police and residents told this scribe.

In another incident on August 28, police intervened to save a three-year-old girl in Chakdara from becoming victim of the inhuman custom of Swara by taking an undertaking from her father that he would not hand her over to his rivals.

The girl had to be handed over on August 31, but police interference saved the girl’s life. Later on they arrested sixteen people including a prominent religious leader Maulana Muhammad Rahim alias Darbar Maulana, along with jirga members for their decision to give away the girl in Swara.

On August 30, a man Nadar Khan allegedly shot his wife Sumera and younger brother Famir dead in Timergara on suspicion of having illicit relations, sources said, adding that the accused first stabbed them and then shot them dead. On September 6, a man Muhammad Khan entered a woman Iqbal Bibi’s house in Ouch and killed her while a child was injured in the incident, police said.

On October 6, a man Gul Khan 23 was shot dead in Timergara, Malakand by relatives of a woman Hameeda who later on shot her dead. They suspected the deceased of having illicit relations. On September 22, a retired army solider Bakht Rahman allegedly killed his wife Bakht Mina, residents said; adding that later on the accused pretended that she was killed by some attackers from outside the home when she was asleep.

Witnesses said Bakht Mina was a modest and innocent woman. On November 21, a man Liaq Zada shot his wife Risalat Bibi dead in Darmal Bala village, informed sources told this reporter.

The women in Dir had never been allowed to take part in political activities. They had never been deprived of their right to vote or contest election. Though in local government elections 2001 and 2005 women were elected to union, tehsil and district councils, yet they had been discouraged to attend councils’ meetings. Women rights activists working in Dir have demanded of the present government and the international donor agencies to focus on boosting female education in the area.

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Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429
4. Encore ~~ Special Report

chances

Breaking the status quo

Despite ruthless societal traditions and narrow interpretations of religion, the rural women are doing the unthinkable

By Adeel Pathan
The rural Pakistan does not present a very rosy picture, as far as the womenfolk is concerned. It"s that part of the country where the women have 'traditionally" suffered from generation through generation. They are denied their right to education, and any opportunity for personal growth and enhancement is simply unthinkable. Sindh, for instance, is blighted with cases of child marriages, honour killings, and tribal lords forcing decisions on the fate of the local women. The Frontier women, for their part, have had to bear the brunt of the wave of extremism (and terrorism) that is sweeping the province. Yet, there is always that 'rare" breed that must rise to the occasion and dare to break the status quo.

"Whenever and wherever the women are provided with an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of an assignment, they never fail us," opines Sassui Palejo, the newly elected member of Sindh Assembly from Thatta district. "The rural lot is no exception."

Sassui, who has won the seat previously also, adds that those women who enter politics are faced with even tougher challenges "from their detractors as well as their colleagues."

However, she accepts the fact that opportunities for women in a feudal setup are few and far between.

Sahar Gul Bhatti, a newspaper columnist and a social worker tells TNS that she was among the "lucky" few, since her family moved to Hyderabad from Nawabshah so that she could complete her education in Sindh University.

But, she says that she was faced with resistence of another kind. "My father had to face the nasty comments of an entire lot of our relatives who were against my going to campus," she recalls.

Such issues resurfaced once she entered the practical field and began teaching at the university. But, she was not to be deterred.

"Things became easier with time," she says.

"See, change is imminent because of the globalisation and the media explosion." However, Sahar is quick to add that it is the urban society that has been the main beneficiary of it all.

Shabana, a young lady in her mid-30s, who is working in a government department, has had to face a myriad problems created by the society at large. Only she was determined "because I was sure this is what I wanted to do."

Farzana Ali, a television reporter based in Peshawar, feels that it was tough coming up in a society with its narrow take on working women -- especially those in the media. However, she admits that she was helped by a pliant family.

"Women voters turning out in small numbers in NWFP goes to show that they were kept indoors by the threat from extremist forces. But, we media people could afford to step out."

She also speaks of rural women who are marrying "of their own free will, in courts" and seeking protection in public, by calling on media at Hyderabad Press Club.

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 Pakistan ~~March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

‘Improving women’s status key to social change’

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, March 8: Stressing the need for improving the status of women, speakers at a seminar said that women’s empowerment was the catalyst for progress and mass social change that could only come through good quality, affordable education. Apart from the government, which needed to deliver on many fronts, women, who stood as icons in their respective fields today, had an obligation to help the less fortunate exploit their potential.

The seminar, ‘Factors enhancing the status of women in Pakistan,’ was organised by the Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace at a local hotel on Saturday. The programme was held to mark International Women’s Day. The speakers, belonging to different spheres of life, spoke at length about the hurdles they had to face in their professional lives and shared their experiences.

Highlighting the role of education in women’s development, the speakers said only education which had relevance to the times could change society. The focus must be on education and how it could be improved and tailored according to the needs of the times. For this purpose, teachers’ training and changes to update curricula was a must, they said.

Speaking on the role of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Simi Kamal, researcher and activist heading the Karachi Water Partnership Project, said the commission formed in 2000 was an outcome of national and international commitments of the Pakistan government. Working in partnership with civil society and the government, the commission envisioned equalisation of opportunities and socio-economic conditions amongst women and men and elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

“The commission’s report on the status of women sparked public debate and led to the government changing its stance and passing the Women’s Protection Bill in 2006. Besides, the Citizenship Act, 1951, was reviewed to give equal rights to women. Efforts have also been made to clearly define the parameters of the ministry of women and the commission, so they both work in harmony,” she said, highlighting the achievements of the commission.

She also stressed the need for the urgent restructuring of the commission, making it independent and powerful, with members working full-time. “In our case, only the chairperson is a full-time, paid employee, while others work as volunteers. We have to learn from the experiences of other countries where such commissions are a success, playing their role very effectively to attend to women’s problems.”

Giving the example of India, she said the commission had powers to summon anybody, including government officials, and was supported by a strong civil network that brings into light cases of injustices against women.

About the role of women in the media, the speakers said women were playing a very crucial role and had come a long way. Women’s participation had increased, but still the media – both electronic and print – was heavily dominated by men and initiatives must be taken to encourage women.

Speakers included Sindh’s caretaker Minister for Women Development Nadira Panjwani, caretaker Education Minister, Punjab, Dr Mira Phailbus, Prof Nuzhat William, Ms Pathani, Prof Dr Rafia Ahmed Sheikh, Nargis Rahman, Rehana Hakim, Sultana Siddiqui, Zubaida Mustafa, Haseena Moin, Seema Tahir, Feryal Ali Gauhar, Saima Mohsin, and Nilofur Farrukh.

An exhibition of handicrafts and paintings by students of the University of Sindh, the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and volunteers of Karavan Craft, Thardeep Rural Support Programme, was also on display.
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 Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

 ‘Empower women if you want peace’

By Aroosa Masroor

Karachi: The country is passing through a crucial phase at this time because the women, who are the actual custodians of peace, remain uneducated and disempowered, noted Prof. Dr Mira Phailbus, caretaker minister of Education, Punjab. She was speaking at a national seminar, ‘factors enhancing the status of women in Pakistan’, organised by the Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace at a local hotel on account of International Women’s Day (IWD).

Stressing on the need to educate women, Dr Phailbus explained that an uneducated wife or mother gives birth to a terrorist, which can be controlled if the government realises that education should be their topmost priority. She said as a caretaker minister, she has demanded that the government increase its annual budget from 4 per cent to at least 10 per cent as education standards have fallen due to lack of resources at government schools and colleges.

During her speech she encouraged the women in the audience that comprised of accomplished women in the government and private sector and students from various colleges in Karachi and Department of Women’s Study, University of Sindh, to have high ideals and not just attain education but also remain abreast with international standards of education. She insisted on-job refresher courses for teachers to keep them motivated in the profession and suggested the establishment of day care centers at the corporate level to encourage more female employees.

Prof. Nuzhat William, principal Karachi College for Women, in her speech talked about the importance of women at the decision-making level. She said the concept of women development and women empowerment are co-related, but one also needs to distinguish between them. “Empowerment should be seen as a process, not as an end-result. By educating a woman and encouraging her to have a career, you don’t empower her. It is her individual will at the decision-making level that empowers her,” explained William.

Updated statistics on the status of women were presented by Simi Kamal, member National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) during her presentation in which she discussed the increasing rate of population that presently stands at 155 million and is expected to double in the next 13 years if childbirth decisions continue to be dictated or influenced by men instead of letting the mother decide.

Kamal also talked about the composition of NSCW members who are working voluntarily, and insisted that the commission should have permanent members and the power to question other ministries about their contribution towards gender mainstreaming in their sectors, for example, the health and education ministries. She also stressed on the importance of interaction between NCSW and the civil society to improve the status of women, including the women from the minority community that organisations tend to ignore.

Pathani, a representative of Thardeep Rural Development Programme, and an inspiration model for the women in Thar left the audience surprised by her confidence during her speech despite being a rural-based woman. Sharing her experience, she said she managed to survive in the conservative rural environment with the support of her father. “I owe what I am today to my father who educated me and encouraged me to join TRDP and work on the micro-credit scheme for women. I had to travel to various towns and districts for awareness raising sessions and would work long hours, which is not a trend in the rural area but my father was very supportive.” Pathani was the first woman to be hired at the NGO following which 20 more women were hired for the project. “I can proudly say ever since the women of Thar have been empowered, not a single case of Karo-kari has been reported in our village and that is one achievement I am proud of,” she cheered.

Roshaneh Zafar, president Kashaf Foundation, also two of the panelists, were unable to attend the seminar. However, a documentary on the success story of Kashaf Foundation was screened during the event which highlighted the importance of micro credit financing that has benefited over 35,000 women in the rural areas. The project started in 1996 with only 15 clients.

Journalists Rehana Hakim, Zebeida Mustafa, writer Haseena Moin and representatives of various electronic media channels namely Sultana Siddiqui, Seema Tahir and Saima Mohsin also shared their work experiences and challenges faced by women in the media. While the representatives unanimously agreed that with the plethora of private television channels, opportunities for women have increased but they said “women still have a long way to go in the male dominated culture and has to work twice as hard to prove her worth in the industry”.

Feryal Ali Gauhat, Development Communication Specialist presented her views on the Paksitani film industry and criticized the male-dominated field for portraying women as ‘mere objects’. “I don’t think much can change in our film industry that continues to denigrate women – which is clearly obvious from the film posters” lamented Gauhar.

Nilofur Farrukh, Prof. Dr Rafia Sheikh, vice chancellor University of Sindh, and Caretaker Minister for Women Development, Nadira Panjwani also spoke on the occasion. The evening ended with a painting and handicraft exhibition by students of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and members of Karavan Craft, Thardeep rural work.
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 Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

Women demand equitable rights, resources

By Myra Imran

Islamabad: To commemorate the International Women Day along with world community, representatives of civil society, NGOs and international organizations arranged a number of events to highlight the problems faced by Pakistani women.

The most prominent among these events were two peaceful rallies organized by NGOs working on women issues. The first rally was organized by PATTAN in the morning on the theme of “Empowered Women Essential to Sustainable Democracy.” It started from Super Market and culminated in front of the Parliament House.

More than 1500 women councillors took part in the rally that drew participants from 24 districts (60 tehsils) of Pakistan. There was excitement early on as a big number of councillors chanted slogans against discriminatory legislation and cultural traditions.

The participants raised slogans calling for empowering women especially members of the local government system, so they could serve as representatives in a better manner and resolve the problems faced by women. Slogans were also chanted against the electricity crisis, flour shortage and inflation.

Speaking on the occasion the women councillors highlighted the snags faced by them at all three levels of the local government system. They demanded an end to the honour killings, gender discrimination and suppression of women rights.

A torch rally later in the evening marched under the theme of ‘Strong Women, Strong Democracy’. Insani Haqooq Itehad, Women Action Forum and Joint Action Committee organized it.

The rally began from China Chowk with a stage play depicting the ordeal of women. About 35 NGOs attended the event and shouted slogans against discriminatory traditions like honour killing, ‘Wata Sata’ and ‘Sawara’.

The police stopped the participants of the rally from marching towards the Parliament. This infuriated the marchers who criticized the government for blocking what they said was a peaceful rally.

On the occasion, a charter of demands was read out seeking women rights and freedom as enshrined in the 1973 Constitution. It emphasized equitable allocation of resources for women and complete repeal of Hudood Ordinance and Qisas and Diyat provisions. It said that there should be a complete ban on anti-women organizations and militant outfits in addition to parallel judicial systems along with demanding protection for women politicians and local government councillors.
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 Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

4. Encore ~~ Special Report

Breaking the status quo

Despite ruthless societal traditions and narrow interpretations of religion, the rural women are doing the unthinkable

By Adeel Pathan
The rural Pakistan does not present a very rosy picture, as far as the womenfolk is concerned. It"s that part of the country where the women have 'traditionally" suffered from generation through generation. They are denied their right to education, and any opportunity for personal growth and enhancement is simply unthinkable. Sindh, for instance, is blighted with cases of child marriages, honour killings, and tribal lords forcing decisions on the fate of the local women. The Frontier women, for their part, have had to bear the brunt of the wave of extremism (and terrorism) that is sweeping the province. Yet, there is always that 'rare" breed that must rise to the occasion and dare to break the status quo.

"Whenever and wherever the women are provided with an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of an assignment, they never fail us," opines Sassui Palejo, the newly elected member of Sindh Assembly from Thatta district. "The rural lot is no exception."

Sassui, who has won the seat previously also, adds that those women who enter politics are faced with even tougher challenges "from their detractors as well as their colleagues."

However, she accepts the fact that opportunities for women in a feudal setup are few and far between.

Sahar Gul Bhatti, a newspaper columnist and a social worker tells TNS that she was among the "lucky" few, since her family moved to Hyderabad from Nawabshah so that she could complete her education in Sindh University.

But, she says that she was faced with resistence of another kind. "My father had to face the nasty comments of an entire lot of our relatives who were against my going to campus," she recalls.

Such issues resurfaced once she entered the practical field and began teaching at the university. But, she was not to be deterred.

"Things became easier with time," she says.

"See, change is imminent because of the globalisation and the media explosion." However, Sahar is quick to add that it is the urban society that has been the main beneficiary of it all.

Shabana, a young lady in her mid-30s, who is working in a government department, has had to face a myriad problems created by the society at large. Only she was determined "because I was sure this is what I wanted to do."

Farzana Ali, a television reporter based in Peshawar, feels that it was tough coming up in a society with its narrow take on working women -- especially those in the media. However, she admits that she was helped by a pliant family.

"Women voters turning out in small numbers in NWFP goes to show that they were kept indoors by the threat from extremist forces. But, we media people could afford to step out."

She also speaks of rural women who are marrying "of their own free will, in courts" and seeking protection in public, by calling on media at Hyderabad Press Club.
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 Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

Book launched on Women’s Day

By Faryal Najeeb

Karachi: A book “Revived: The Journey Within” on the lives of fourteen successful women in Pakistan and written by Khadija Malik Hassan was launched at the Commune Artist Colony on Women’s Day (8th March) in Karachi.

The coffee table book is based on Kiran Fine Jewellery’s gold collection called ‘Revived’ and includes the tales of Banto Kazmi, Faiza Samee, Fareshteh Aslam, Frieha Altaf, Maheen Khan, Mehvash Amin, Muniba Kamal, Nabila Shahid, Rehana Saigol, Rooha Ghaznavi, Samina Ibrahim, Shehnaz Ismail and Sonya Battla.

The women included in the book are all from Pakistan and have made a mark in their respective fields, ranging from journalism to fashion to designing and production. Author of the book, Khadija Hassan said that these icons were chosen to bring out the diversity of the women in this country while adding that she was amazed at the strength each of them possessed and the struggle each one had to go through to achieve their dreams.

Frieha Altaf, MD of Catwalk Productions, speaking to The News said that this was the most divine thing that could have happened to her as a book is the most loved treasure anyone could possess and she got the opportunity to belong to one. “I feel very special being a part of this book that is going to brighten the lives of any young girls in our country” she added.

Fareshteh Aslam, a journalist was of the view that Revived is a very different kind of book, which not only narrates the lives of the 14 women instead but narrates the story of every woman in the world through the words of some and, therefore, she predicts that it would be a bestseller soon.

In a star-studded event, where the ‘whose who’ of Karachi made a point to make an appearance, was accompanied by a visual tour of the women included in the book and Kiran’s latest jewelry collection.

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 Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

Balanced role of women in media sought

By Perwez Abdullah

Karachi: Speakers at a seminar at the Abdul Haque campus of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST) were unanimous in their observation that the forthcoming emancipation of women and their increased role in media should be used with responsibility and a sense of purpose to prove that women can be successful in every sphere of life.

The speakers were giving their opinion at the seminar titled ‘Women in media’ organised by the Department of Mass Communication and held on Saturday at FUUAST to commemorate the International Women’s Day (IWD).

Shaheen Salahuddin, Director Current Affairs Indus TV, commended the young women who had entered the media. There was a time, according to her, when few women journalists were in the field who were mostly working as sub-editors. Thanks to the advent of electronic media, a new breed of young, educated and professionally competent women can be found everywhere, she added.

Humaira Athar, a working journalist, was of the opinion that in some celebrations of IWD, the day has lost its political flavour and has become simply an occasion for men to express their love to the women around them in a way somewhat similar to Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day both. “Women should understand that they have their own, individual personalities. They can play different roles ­ daughter, sister, wife and mother but her identity should be intact and the individuality of her character should always be maintained,” she exhorted the female students present in the hall.

Professor Hasan Waqar Gul, Dean of Arts at the university praised the department for organising the seminar and hoped that more efforts will be undertaken by others in the society to bring women at par with their male counterparts.

Prof. Tauseef Ahmed Khan, Chairman of the department, expressed his appreciation for the female students for their hard work in organising the event. He hoped that the society will do more for the down-trodden women, especially from the rural areas.
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 Pakistan ~~ March 09, 2008 Sunday Safar 30, 1429

‘Situation of women in villages pathetic’

By Our Correspondents

LAHORE: WORKING Women’s Organization (WWO) organized a seminar to mark International Women Day (IWD) at Lahore Press Club here on Saturday.

Scores of women from all walks of life enthusiastically participated in the seminar. The participants said the IWD was being marked to express unity and solidarity with all those women who were fighting for protection of their rights in the world.

WWO Executive Coordinator Aima Mehmood said 80 per cent women of Pakistan were living in villages and their ways of living were depicting a dismal picture of the status of women in the country. Heinous crime of burying a few-day old baby girl was still being committed in the country which established the fact that the most cherished wish of women for enjoying an equal status with men was a distant reality. She said the women were taking an active part in all walks of life in the urban areas while the women living in rural areas were not using their faculties for their own welfare.

WWO President Rubina Jamil said there had been recorded a tremendous surge in the cases of molestation, persecution, honour killing, domestic violence and rape of women in the society according to the data provided by Pakistan Human Rights Commission (PHRC). She pointed out the politically-active women were hailing from those strong political families which were ruling the roost in the Parliament since 60 years.

She said these women were encouraged to participate in the political affairs of the country when the male members of these families were barred from contesting the elections due to the condition of graduation imposed on the candidates for being elected as the member of the National Assembly of Pakistan.

She condemned these despicable social values which allowed men to exploit women for their own lust of power in the politics. She slated those champions of women’s rights who themselves were blatantly violating their rights.

All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF) General Secretary Gulzar Ahmed Chaudhry applauded the WWO for its active participation in protecting the rights of women in the country. He said 80 per cent population had been mired in various social, economic and political problems in the country which could be resolved only if all the people showed unity among their ranks to expedite the process of redemption from all these complications.

He appreciated the efforts made by different women to bring about peace and prosperity across the world despite all kinds of suppressions, victimizations and persecutions. He also cited an example of those professional women who had been entitled to Noble Peace Prize due to their endeavours for materialization of their dreams of peace into reality.

He said it had become inevitable for the leadership of the country to provide better opportunities for women in all professions so that they could utilize their talents for progress and development of Pakistan. He urged that participation of women in trade unions would help safeguard the interests of working women besides strengthening trade unions as well.

South Asian Participation (SAP) Coordinator Muhammad Sharjeel said the WWO had highlighted the issue of establishment of peace and stability in the country which could help achieve this goal through concerted efforts of all the citizens.

He said lawlessness and insecurity had gripped the whole nation which had become a great challenge for the government at this moment. He said the social organizations had been working for the attainment of peace and justice in the society and these organizations should join hands together to root out terrorism from the society. He said the women should also play an active role in this drive against terrorism. He maintained that the civil society had been making a significant contribution to contain criminal activities against women in the society.

Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) former President Firdous Butt demanded the government quash all discriminatory laws against women. She also urged the government to ensure effective implementation of all the laws being framed for the protection of rights of women in Pakistan.

Lawyers’ community paid tribute to women for their courage, as they remained steadfast in the lawyers’ struggle for the independence of judiciary, she added.

Eminent journalist Humaira Owais said the women had continued their struggle for protection of their rights in spite of numerous hurdles in this regard. She said a peaceful society could be formed only after taking stringent measures for the safeguard of women’s rights. She also urged the women to change their ideas through awareness and education so that they could play an active role in the development of the country. We will have to promote equality and justice in our society, she added. She said print and electronic media had been undoubtedly highlighting the issues being faced by women in our society. She said the media should make a healthy contribution towards the resolution of all these issues.
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