Rawalpindi: November 30:Local rickshaws inscribed with slogans on violence against women lined up in the compound of Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, were the centre of attraction for students, both boys and girls.
These rickshaws were part of an awareness campaign titled ‘Enough: Together We Can End Violence against Women and Girls’ launched to advocate for the elimination of violence against women and generate demands for the effective implementation of pro-women laws by Oxfam and Aurat Foundation on Tuesday.
Launched on the occasion of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, the campaign features a rickshaw drive in 24 districts, across Punjab and Sindh provinces, in which more than 3,000 rickshaws are displaying campaign message, carrying art work and playing feminist folk songs. The rickshaw campaign is championed by rickshaw drivers who are acting as advocates for women rights. The campaign was launched at an event organised at Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi.
The event featured inspiring speeches by the guests, screening of a documentary, women anthem ‘Yeh Daikh Zamana Mera Hay’ by Aliya Mirza, musical and theatrical performance by students and feminist poetry by Aliya Mirza.
At the end, a charter of demand was presented demanding implementation of Domestic Violence Bill, inclusion of women political workers in the decision making process of political parties, registration of women voters on priority basis, reservation of 10 per cent quota for party tickets in elections for women, banning publication and promotion of hate material, women friendly environment at police stations, law on early marriage and strengthening of existing institution for the support of VAW victims.
Speaking on this occasion, Justice (Rtd) Nasira Javed Iqbal said despite serious legislative and political measures, 70 to 80 per cent women face violence in Pakistan. She praised the approval of pro-women laws in recent past but also pointed out gaps in the implementation of these laws. In Honor Killing Law, she said that consent agreement or ‘Raazi Nama’ is still an option whereas in Punjab’s Women Protection Act, the act of violence against women is not criminalized. “Despite all these gaps, we are happy for the progress and hope that slowly we will be able to overcome hurdles in the way of implementation,” she said.
First Secretary for Australian High Commission Trasey Graeney said violence against women is a global issue. “One in four women experiences violence in Australia,” she said adding that violence against women has massive impact on families and society. “It restricts women potential to contribute in economic development of a country resulting in huge economic cost,” she added.
Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz stressed for the collaborative efforts and engagement of men to eliminate violence from the society. She said NCSW currently has three priority areas including elimination of VAW, economic independence and political participation of women,” she said.
Khawar suggested introducing a social media App (application) for quick support of violence victims. “Women living in rural areas are usually are not familiar with social media tools but local leaders can facilitate such women to access the existing support mechanism,” she said.
Chief Operating Officer for Aurat Foundation Naeem Ahmed Mirza shared the history of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. He talked about the struggle of Mirabal Sisters who opposed dictatorship and were assassinated on November 25, 1960. In the memory of these sisters, the world commemorates 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, from International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25 to International Human Rights Day on December 10.
He said that women gave sacrifices all around the world for their rights. “The time has changed. This is the century of women but for that women would have to stand up for their rights,” he said adding that the change starts from home. Naeem also suggested making women rights part of the curriculum.
Country Director Oxfam, Pakistan, Mohammed Qazilbash said despite significant progress made towards legislation and policy formation to protect women and their rights in Pakistan, harrowing stories of violence against women emerge everyday from all corners of the country.
“This testifies that our society has somehow accepted violence against women as a normal behaviour. This violence takes many shapes and forms, it perpetuates women’s sufferings and in turn disrupts the fabric of the society. However, what has been learned can be unlearned. Enough is enough,” he said.
Vice Chancellor Arid Agriculture University Rai Niaz said people who do not respect women are unfortunate ones. He said that solution to eliminate violence against women is by making them financially independent. Senator Najma Hameed praised Arid Agriculture University for organizing an event on women rights at the campus. Member Punjab Assembly Zaib un Nisa and MPA Tehseen Fawad also spoke on the occasion. At the end, the first Rickshaw rally was launched from the university premises.The news.