Press Release by Pakistan Humanitarian Foundation
Islamabad, March 9th, 2022: The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum marked International Women’s Day by organizing a virtual session on current year them “Breaking the Bias and gender stereotypes”. The virtual session was attended by eminent speakers, intellectuals, development, and humanitarian practitioners. Ms. Shandana Gulzar Khan, a Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, participated in the session as a keynote speaker.
Mr. Farhan Ahmed Khan, Chair Executive Committee, Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, and Country Director CESVI welcome all the participants and start the session with a very powerful message, that International Women’s Day should not be limited to one day, but we must celebrate this day every day to appreciate women at all levels, especially the rural women which are doing a lot of unpaid work and hardly get appreciated at any level. We are highly indebted to those women whose work doesn’t get appreciated.
Dr. Farah Naureen, Country Director CESVI, while responding to questions related to the role of INGOs highlighted the current scenario of the country by mentioning key facts. She mentioned that women are 49 % of the total population of the country which is half of it. She further mentioned some other statistics of different provinces. She told participants, that very few women have bank accounts, 13 percent have some assets and 15 % hardly use the internet and 40 % have some mobile phones in Punjab. To address the state of gender equality, we need to improve the socio-economic status of women.
As in the workplaces, there are only 3 % women in managerial positions. There are so many barriers to young girls and women in Pakistan not in terms of access but the environment that is not conducive for women. INGOs are also performing their role but there is a need to address the unique needs of the women and girls and men and boys are in the country to ensure gender equality.
Ms. Taheeni Thammannagoda, Head of ECHO shared her point of view especially the ratio of gender discrimination which highly escalate during the humanitarian crisis, and that actual breakdown the community and family structure by exposing girls and women to some vulnerabilities. She mentioned that the various program of ECHO which are very high on protecting and preventing gender-based violence during a humanitarian crisis. She further mentioned that addressing GBV during a disaster is not an immediate incident, but it requires a long-term strategy to ensure gender equality. ECHO is working with its partners for gender-sensitive humanitarian action in all programs. There is the need for collective action to break the glass ceiling of gender stereotypes and bias by engaging men at all levels.
Ms. Ayesha Wadood from UN Women Pakistan mentioned several reasons related to the barriers that women and young girls are facing everywhere. She also mentioned that to achieve SDG 5 there is a need to achieve SDG 1, 2, 3, and 4 because they are highly interlinked at all levels. UN Women developed its complete plan to achieve the targets of SDG 5 at the provincial level, but the current challenges UN Women and other organizations are facing are related to shrinking space for civil society and especially challenges related to freedom of expression. But there are a lot of good developments that UN Women is taking with the Government of Pakistan which includes the work with women parliamentarians and measures to strengthen the law and order situation by establishing the women police station and commission on the status of women in all the provinces. But we do believe that collective action is required from all the stakeholders to bring instrumental change for women empowerment in Pakistan. There is no darkness as the country is doing a lot, but still, collective efforts are required to fill the remaining gaps at all levels.
While throwing light on the current year theme “Break the Bias” Ms. Shandana Gulzar Khan shared the challenges of women parliamentarians as she mentioned that women parliamentarians are the icing on the cake and polka on the dot. They are facing serious issues of equality at all levels. The major issue in Pakistan is as we are living in a patriarchal society, in such a society men are not only patriarchal but women are too. It’s not only the Pakistan society as it is everywhere. But the biggest thing is that we can only solve this issue by engaging men at all levels, she emphasized that man is not the enemy. To ensure gender equality, we must work with a man not against it. During her remarks, she highly appreciated UN Women’s “HeforShe” campaign as such campaigns are highly needed to ensure gender equality at all levels.
While sharing her story, Ms. Munira Barkat, a Volunteer member of Aga Khan Agency for Habitat shared her experience to safeguard and protect women during the time of crisis, she was fully trained under the search and rescue team which was formulated by Aga Khan Agency for Habitat. She mentioned that during the time of disaster she was on the front line in rescuing women, and it was to our surprise that women in urban areas never allow men to safeguard them and more relied on female members to touch them and rescue them. We still need to do more work to break gender stereotypes and barriers at all levels.
During the concluding remarks, Mr. Shahid Kazmi, Country Coordinator, Pakistan Humanitarian Forum highly appreciated all the panelists and participants for their time and support. He mentioned PHF is bringing all the stakeholders to the table and planning to work in collaboration to strengthen the humanitarian and development sector of Pakistan to attain the targets which are mentioned in vision 2025 and another policy framework. He further mentioned that collective efforts are required to break the glass ceiling everywhere. To ensure gender equality, we can’t leave men behind at any level.