Empowering women and protecting their rights is a central pillar of Pakistan’s development paradigm: Dr Shireen Mazari

Government has announced a minimum 10% quota for women in public sector employment to encourage women’s participation in the workforce and our National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights is another milestone on improving the industrial working conditions, placing special focus on women’s labor participation and safe working conditions.

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Islamabad: Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari, attended virtually the third extraordinary session of the Ministerial Council of the Women Development Organization (WDO) of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Cooperation). This was on the special invitation of the Chair of the Ministerial Council of WDO and President of the National Council for Women in Egypt.

In her address to the council, she said that the forum had provided a space for meaningful dialogue on advancing women. Empowering women and protecting their rights is a central pillar of Pakistan’s development paradigm. The constitution of Pakistan guarantees fundamental rights to both men and women in the light of Islamic Injunctions and provides guarantees to women against discrimination and exploitation.

She added that Pakistan is also a signatory to several international commitments on gender equality and women’s rights including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Sustainable Development Goals. Government of Pakistan has taken concrete steps towards strengthening legislation related to violence against women, harassment, economic participation and inheritance. Recently, Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Act, 2022 has been enacted that was drafted by the Ministry of Human Rights with extensive input from women rights groups and lawyers. This piece of legislation specifically includes domestic workers who are usually at a greater risk of workplace violence and harassment.

She expressed that Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Human Rights Cells in Courts, Women Police Stations, nationwide helplines, National and Provincial Commissions on the Status of Women, Provincial Women Development Departments and Directorates as well as a Women’s Bank and establishment of National Human Rights Complaint Cell are few successful strides towards the institutional framework in Pakistan to protect women rights.

Minister stated that the incumbent government’s broader flagship social protection program aims to ensure women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment. Kafaalat program has successfully been rolled out, driving financial and digital inclusion for around 8 million women. Moreover, the Government has announced a minimum 10% quota for women in public sector employment to encourage women’s participation in the workforce and our National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights is another milestone on improving the industrial working conditions, placing special focus on women’s labor participation and safe working conditions.

She said that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role women play globally in shaping a more equitable future. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the disproportionate burdens that women confront, particularly during public health and economic emergencies. Women across the world have also faced an alarming increase in instances of domestic violence, unemployment and poverty. Our Ministry specifically prioritized addressing domestic violence during lockdowns by running nationwide media campaigns and embedding a special code in our helpline so victims could report domestic violence even in the presence of perpetrators.

She further asserted that she would be amiss if at this point of time, she had not drawn attention to the violence and oppression being perpetrated on the women and children in IIOJK and the Muslim women in India. She demanded that the OIC must move to act against this violence against Muslim women in an increasingly intolerant India under the Hindutva BJP government and as an Ummah, we also had to effectively counter the Islamophobia in the Western countries.

In her concluding remarks, she said that Pakistan firmly believes that we cannot effectively achieve economic growth, sustainable development, peace, or prosperity without gender equality. She thanked the organizers for spearheading the cause of gender equality in Islamic Countries and expressed hope to continue strengthening relationships with other Islamic countries to forge ahead to empower women.

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