Everyone has right to do March regardless of gender, Zartaj Gul

Minister of State for Climate Change, Zartaj Gul while commenting on the controversies around 8th March Women Day and Aurat March said that everyone has right to do March regardless of gender and one should avoid to indulge in controversial debates. She said there is no fight between men and women and we should all rather raised our voices against forced marriages, Karo Kari, lack of property rights, lack of job opportunities, and lack of access to health and education facilities etc.

She expressed these thoughts during a seminar titled “Each for Equal; International Women’s Day 2020” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here at Islamabad.

Zartaj Gul said that it is good to celebrate one specific day every year for women, but every day is women day as women are part of every single aspect of society and we cannot simply ignore or denied their role and contribution. She said that we should learn to respect our daughters, mothers, sisters and spouses and empowered them for their positive role they play for the society. “Women empowerment is incomplete till a woman is not economically empowered” said Zartaj adding we should not stigmatize women’s role in our society and should not forget all those women who are most marginalized in far flung rural areas and don’t have access to opportunities and basic necessities. While commenting on issue of harassments, Zartaj said that harassment is not physical only, there is mental harassment as well which is deeply prevailed in our society where women opinion or their voices not given due respect or heard.

Executive Director, SDPI, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri while expressing solidarity on behalf of civil society for international women day celebrations and Aurat March said that for us this year’s theme “each is equal” is yet another manifestation of SDGs message of “leaving no one behind”. We should all acknowledge and respect the role of 50 percent of population (women), otherwise we would fail to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.

While expressing disappointment on the recent controversy around Aurat March and urging the opponents of this March to behave with maturity, he said that we strongly condemn any move that aim to hurt equal rights for all genders. “SDPI will keep advocating for social justice, particularly for women rights”, he added.

High Commissioner of Canada to Pakistan, Wendy Gilmour said that women should have equal access to opportunities to fulfil their ambitions alongside men and all genders in the society. She said women should be allowed to express their views in a safe and secure manner and the government should ensure in providing an enabling and safe environment for women to raise voices for their rights. She said that in Pakistan, despite so many obstacles, women are working almost in every sector and especially in armed forces, which is really impressive. However, at the same time, a large number of women in Pakistan has little access work opportunities and even basic necessities such as health and education. She emphasized the need for educating the young boys and girls on Life Skills Based Education in order to ensure that they could take informed decisions for their lives in future. She urged the government to have gender responsive policies and laws to help lift all segments of the society.

Romina Khurshid Alam, Member of National Assembly (PMLN), National Assembly of Pakistan said that despite many challenges the perspective about women in Pakistan and abroad has changed, as there are so many accomplished and powerful women there who are positively contributing in society. She said that we are all born equal and called for social cohesion among all segment of the society. There is need to put pressure on the masses and teach our sons instead rather daughters to show respect for women, she added.

Transgender Rights Expert at Ministry of Human Rights, Aisha Mughal said that though Transgender Protection Act addressed our long due issue of identity, which was a big achievement, but the transgender community in Pakistan is still marginalized and facing the issues of social acceptance and family acceptance. She said that despite all the challenges the transgender is as competent as any other gender. She urged the government to create a safer and enabling environment for the transgender community, as transgenders face more sexual harassment than women. She called upon society to change the perception about transgender community and accept the diversity. The whole focus of the Aurat March is to demand a safe environment for women and other marginalized genders, she added.  

Maryam Shabbir Abbasi, Environmentalist, Climate Change and Gender at SDPI while highlighting the impacts of climate change on women and children said that in developing countries women are more vulnerable to the natural disasters mainly due to lack of adaptive capabilities. She said according to a research study, in 141 countries, women die early due to the natural disaster, life expectancy rate of girls has also decreased due to natural calamities. She urged the government to have gender responsive policies and help the vulnerable women in building their adaptive capacity.

Ayesha Ilyas, Research Associate, SDPI, while moderating the session said that regardless of our age, country, background or gender, the fight for equal rights has collectively defined our lives and we must take action together to achieve it.

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