It is for the first time in the country’s political history that the women are being ensured their rights and protection by legislation which is evident from election of a woman as Speaker, National Assembly. The process of women emancipation moved forward during the last two years under the PPP-led coalition government despite facing numerous challenges.
The government took practical steps to pursue the commitment made by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for the uplift of womenfolk and “Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act-2009” is a laudable step in this regard.
The Ministry of Women Development (MOWD) in collaboration with civil society organizations made it possible to ensure secure environment for women enabling them to contribute to the national development process.
Allocating 10 percent quota for women in civil services was another landmark achievement of the present democratic government. The official sources said the government has allocated additional funds amounting to Rs. 100 million for economic empowerment of women.
The Ministry, accordingly, requested Women Development Departments of the provinces , AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan to submit projects upto Rs. 10 million for the purpose. However, 13 projects at a cost of Rs.148.468 million were approved for the economic empowerment of women besides an allocation of Rs. 343.156 million for 19 ongoing projects.
For social empowerment, 25 Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women Centers in selected districts across the country are working to provide protection, free medical, legal and psychological aid to women victims of violence. The main purpose of the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centers for Women was to provide rehabilitation facilities to women in distress.
These centres provide temporary shelter to victims of violence in emergencies, besides giving them free legal aid and counselling. The centers have been set up at Islamabad, Shahiwal, Vehari, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Kohat, Mianwali, Quetta, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, Sibi, Khushab, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Abbottabad, Mirpur, Jacobabad, Khuzdar, Muzaffargarh, Swat, Rawalpindi and DG Khan.
Women are already providing valuable services in all walks of life and the initiatives being taken by the Ministry of Women Development would further encourage them. However, adequate resources are needed for the ministry to enable it to have more focus on women issues. The ministry also provided buses to public and private institutions, colleges in rural and less developed districts of the four province, FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
The hostels for orphan girls by Women Development Department (WDD), government of Sindh and an NGO ‘Aangan were established while a Day Care Centre at Female Campus of International Islamic University, Islamabad was also established for facilitating women.
Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP) is the biggest programme of the ministry which is aimed at promoting women access to economical, political and social empowerment at national provincial and district level.
The ministry has established Gender Development Sections in five key ministries under GRAP. These sections would be developed in all 48 ministries and divisions, while such initiatives are also being planned at provincial level. In the vision 2030 of the government, GRAP is also included to ensure gender mainstreaming while the mid-term 2005-10 plan goal is the implementation of GRAP.
The federal implementing partners of GRAP are Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, Ministry of Labour & Manpower, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Planning and Development and Establishment division. The Ministry has also finalized its report on ‘Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW) to the United Nations soon.
Pakistan acceded to CEDAW in February 1996 that makes it obligatory for a member country to condemn any biases against women and take affirmative steps to make the society discrimination-free. The members are also asked to submit regular reports on the status of women and then defend them verbally before the expert committees. The report on steps taken to eliminate discrimination against women is a regular exercise of all CEDAW members and has to be submitted to UN every four years. Pakistan submitted its two combined CEDAW reports to UN in March 2005.
The ministry is playing its role as an advocate, planner and coordinator of issues relating to women and responsible for formulation of policies and laws to meet the special needs of women, ensuring their interests and needs are adequately represented and protected in public policy formulation by various organizations and agencies of the government.
Since the aim of the minitstry is to remove gender inequality, poverty, discrimination and imbalances in all development sectors, the focus has been on ensuring women’s equal access to all development benefits