The Ministry of Human Rights, in collaboration with UN Women and the EU in Pakistan, celebrated International Women’s Day at the Presidency today. The event served as an occasion to celebrate the progress made towards the protection and promotion of women’s rights in Pakistan, and evaluate future steps required to foster and ensure greater female empowerment and gender equality in the country. President Arif Alvi attended the event as Chief Guest.
The event acknowledged the achievements of female trailblazers from diverse backgrounds, who were invited to speak about their experiences, accomplishments and the obstacles that they have faced as women in various career fields in Pakistan. This included Fehmida Mirza, currently serving as Federal Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination. Ms Fehmida Mirza has the distinction of being the first and only woman Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan between March 2008 and June 2013. The other female trailblazers who participated at the event included Ms Zubedia Jalal, Minister for Defence Production; Rukhshanda Naz, Ombudsperson for KP Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace; Reem Sharif, the first Transgender police officer in Pakistan; Zara Naeem, the ACCA exam topper; and Erum Baloch, a young athlete from Jacobabad in Sindh.
The event also included a musical folk performance with Shamu Bai and Vishnu, a brother-sister duo from rural Sindh. The Ministry of Human Rights also showcased several films that delved into pro-women legislation, women’s rights, and the Ministry’s 1099 National Human Rights Helpline. Sar Buland, a music video tribute to daughters and inspirational women in Pakistan, developed by Samar Minhallah was also showcased at the event
Federal Secretary for Human Rights, Inamullah Khan gave the welcoming remarks at the event. He spoke about the theme for International Women’s Day this year, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” He spoke about the central role that women have played in combating the pandemic, featuring prominently at the front lines as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, and community organizers. He spoke about the significance of acknowledging their contributions and creating more opportunities and space for them in critical policy making and decision making circles, to account for the learnings of Covid-19 and ensure greater resilience to future public emergencies related to disease or climate change.
Speaking at the event, Sharmeela Rasool, Country Representative, UN Women said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that inclusivity and diversity of leadership styles make a difference. When more women are in decision-making positions, different voices are heard, and innovative solutions are created. Both the process and the outcomes are for a more just, equitable and prosperous society”.
Androulla Kaminara, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan also gave an address at the event. Ms Kaminara acknowledged the significance of the collaboration between Pakistan and the EU in developing key areas of cooperation geared towards gender mainstreaming, women empowerment and elimination of all forms of violence against women, under the Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP). She also mentioned that the EU’s Huqooq-e-Pakistan project with the Ministry of Human Rights has supported the development of awareness raising films on pro women legislation, including inheritance & GBV, and expressed hope that this event will promote these videos and serve to spread these important messages to a wider audience in Pakistan.
Dr. Shireen Mazari, Federal Minister for Human Rights spoke about the work of the Ministry of Human Rights in supporting the cause of female empowerment and gender equality in Pakistan. “MoHR has focused on strengthening legislation, improving institutional mechanisms for implementation, and increasing awareness amongst the general population about relevant laws, to promote and protect the rights of women and girls in Pakistan. The Anti-Rape Ordinance and the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Act in 2020 are two such critical recent advancements in this regard. MoHR has also been working towards upgrading its National Human Rights Helpline to strengthen grievance redressal mechanisms, which are critical for victims of GBV and domestic violence.”