A one-day seminar was jointly organized by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on the Status of Women (KPCSW) and the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) funded Women Empowerment & Political Participation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (WEPP-KP) project implemented by Cowater International, in Peshawar on December 10, 2019.
The main objective of the seminar was to commemorate International Human Rights Day which is the culmination of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 Days of Activism start every year from November 25, ending on 10 December with International Human Rights Day. The seminar was attended by Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPA), academia, university students, media, Police Force, members of civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the legal community. Ms. Rakhshanda Naz, Provincial Ombudsperson on Harassment was the honorable Chief Guest on the occasion, while Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPA), Ms. Aisha Bano, Ms. Humaira Khatoon, Ms. Zeenat Bibi, Ms. Rabia Basri, Ms. Baseerat Khan, and Ms. Sajida Hanif also passionately participated in celebrating International Human Rights Day.
The Provincial Ombudsperson for Harassment referred to the struggle for the rights to the people of Merged Districts (formerly the Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and expressed her contentment that an elected female MPA from the Merged Districts was participating in this event. The Frontier Crime Regulation has been abolished and all government departments were moving into the Merged Districts establish offices, both positive signs. She said that there is a 10 percent quota for women in government jobs but still this quota is not observed. Ms. Rakhshanda demanded not only that this quota is observed in letter and spirit, but it should be further increased. She urged the Provincial Commission on Status of Women (KPCSW) to ensure the implementation of pro-women laws. She also mentioned various international conventions and laws to which Pakistan is a signatory and demanded that all stakeholders work towards fulfilling these commitments. She lauded both the KPCSW and GAC funded WEPP-KP projects. Implemented by Cowater International, for arranging this seminar on the eve of International Human Rights Day and assured her full support in serving the cause of human rights.
The seminar was moderated by Ms. Rubina Naz Advocate and Board Member of the KPCSW, who talked about the role and mandate of the KPCSW. In her opening remarks, she argued that violence is prevailing everywhere with no exception of poor or rich, race, nationality, and religion. Similarly, perpetrators can also be men and women. In discussing the 16 Days of Activism, Ms. Rubina Naz emphasized that its celebration helps to highlight issues relating the women’s rights and raise the collective voice against discrimination and violence.
Dr. Riffat Sardar, Chairperson of KPCSW welcomed the guests adding that the mandate of the commission is to review existing laws related to women and ensure their effective implementation. She noted that District Committees have already been established to ensure the implementation of women related laws; however, the formal notification of these committees is yet to be issued. She said that the main function of the Commission is to monitor the steps being taken by the provincial government for women’s welfare and to ensure an end to discrimination against women. Besides, the Commission provides recommendations to the government for repeal of anti-women laws and recommends new legislation.
Dr. Anosh Khan, Chairperson of Gender Studies Department, University of Peshawar, said that the state’s behavior is positive towards the legislation of women related laws but that there remain challenges in implementation. MPA and Board Member of KPCSW, Ms. Humaira Khatoon, agreed that there are difficulties in the implementation of laws addressing human rights. As a member of the Provincial Assembly, she committed to working with the government to ensure that women have access to and can exercise their full rights. She urged that the Domestic Violence bill be passed in the Provincial Assembly soon. MPA Ayesha Bano said that the violation of children’s rights is also a serious issue, pointing out that the incumbent government was also working on protection of the rights of children, transgender persons, senior citizens, religious minorities, and all other marginalized groups. Ms. Sajida Hanif, MPA, argued that legislation, new laws, and rules were not enough to root out violence. MPA Rabia Basri was of the view that the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in the KP Assembly was instrumental in resolving the problems of women and the protection of rights of transgender persons, children, and persons with disabilities. She also mentioned the scarcity of resources and a lack of awareness as basic causes of gender-based violence in society.
The Team Leader of WEPP-KP (Cowater International), Ms. Shabina Gulzar, while thanking the participants, said that WEPP-KP with funding from Global Affairs Canada has started the Women Empowerment & Political Participation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (WEPP-KP) project, which will work with the KPCSW and SW, SE & WED and other related departments. She said that today’s seminar on human rights will go a long way towards creating awareness regarding human rights and their protection, and that next year on the same eve she hoped that the project would have a lot of success in women’s empowerment and political participation to share.
During the Seminar, different documentaries (videos) were played which highlighted women’s rights, issues of Gender-Based Violence, its causes and consequences, and the role of various sections of society in the protection of women’s rights.