LAHORE – Shirkat Gah -Women’s Resource Centre (SG) and the Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD) successfully held a policy consultation on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fulfilling commitments under the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on 30th June 2021.
The consultation provided a platform for engagement between elected and executive members of government and civil society to engage with Pakistan’s progress on achieving SDG targets particularly SDG 5-Gender Equality and SDG 10-Reduced Inequalities and fulfilling commitments under CEDAW.
Among the honourable government officials and members of the parliaments were Mr Ejaz Alam Augustine, Minister for Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Punjab, Mr Syed Yawar Abbas Bukhari, Provincial Minister for Baitul Maal and social welfare; Farah Agha, PTI Punjab; Seemabia Tahir PTI Punjab; Uzma Kardar, MPA Punjab; Sadia Sohail, MPA Punjab; Bushra Butt, PMLN, Punjab; Sadia Ali Social Welfare Department; Human Development Department; Women Development Department; Punjab Health Department Child Protection Welfare; Rabia Usman (Social Welfare Department); Rural Support Program; Punjab Health Department; Punjab Food Authority; and Punjab SDG Unit.From civil society organisations Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), Women in Home Net Pakistan, Aurat Foundation, National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), CLAAS (working on minority rights), SAP PK, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan HRCP, Sangat, WISE, AGAHE (Association for Gender Awareness & Human Empowerment), Labor Education Foundation, Working Women Development Foundation, AIDS awareness Society, Youth Advocacy, Voice Society, Empower Welfare Foundation (persons with disabilities), Human Advocacy Network were part of the consultation.
Mr Ejaz Alam Augustine, Minister for Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Punjab during the consultation stated that the ministry is working on various human rights issues such as acid throwing, transgender rights, forced conversions, minority rights.Mr Alam further stated that, the forced conversions bill needs to be brought into action, technically there will be no benefits for the minorities, when we look into the technicalities even if we bring this bill forward despite laws passed in Sindh there are still forced conversion in Sindh. He added we don’t want barriers towards the conversion of faith however many conversions are forced. In Punjab we have brought interfaith harmony, he said. In Punjab despite the laws of early child marriage there are still young minor girls are forced into marriage, he added.The civil society presented recommendations to the government officials and the members of the parliament on Health, Gender-Based Violence GBV, Transgender and people with disabilities, and Labor.In the section Gender-Based Violence, the recommendations highlighted Child Marriage and suggested that in Punjab the minimum age for girls should be raised to 18 years. Verification of ages of the spouses especially the females be made mandatory through recognized documents at the time of nikkah.
The CSO also highlighted the need to address Forced Marriages in Punjab and recommended that The PPC provision related to forced marriage (section 498-B) should be made a cognizable offence. For the Conversion of Religion the CSO recommended that a law should be enacted to provide for clear criteria and procedure regarding the conversion of the religion of a person. It was recommended that in Harassment of women at workplace law, the law should be suitably amended to make it more effective and all forms of harassment at the workplace should be included in the ambit of the law. The Ombudswoman should be empowered to initiate action against the organizations in which the committees under this law have not been formed. In other recommendations under GBV, Protection against Violence Act, 2016, Non-maintenance as a form of violence, under Helplines it was recommended that there should be one helpline and it should be connected with all the essential services.
For police helpline of 15 SOPs be developed for attendance of calls of violence against women. PCSW Punjab Commission on the Status of Women was performing very well but since the tenure of the current government has started, all initiatives have been suffered badly due to the non-appointment of commission members and Chairperson because all administrative and financial powers rest with the Executive body of the commission.
Mr Yawar Bukhari addressing the recommendations said that, “We need to add positive terminology, we need to recognize that we should use word welfare instead of protection, we need to teach our male children to respect women.”Mr Bukhari further stated that we are expending Violence Against Women Center – currently only in Multan – to Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi, where women will receive various kind of support.He commended Shirkat Gah’s efforts and said that the organisation should arrange more consultation meetings like there where there is a platform for the CSOs and Government officials sit together and find solutions.On GBV and early child marriage, Mr Bukhari stated that there is a need to educate people, laws are easy to be brought, he added and said “we need to change the Government’s mindset and supervise and facilitate civil society organisations.To empower women he said that, we have come up with a plan to start ‘sanatzar’ to teach women how to empower through e-commerce. Women will be given crash courses on e-commerce so that they are well versed in it.Mr Bukhari commended the concept of VAWC centres which was introduced by the previous government and we are expanding it. He stated that we’re very open to this and would like you to be part, as a minister I am open and would like to learn from you (the civil society)Uzma Kardar said, we are the first ones to sign the treaties but we don’t match the required mandatesall these are recent (NCSW and the rest) we still have to do a lot more.Kept a budget for the transgender, the biggest issue is the marginalized part of the country have no skills development for them, need a safe environment, needs income generation they don’t need donations they should be given soft loans.
Bushra Butt added that we need to invest in women how can we improve it through budgeting how can we utilize the shelter homes despite from the opposition it is not easy, all the work is duplicated and we need to be on the same page.Sadia Sohail said that we need to change the mindset of our society, there is a problem in legislation whatever the bills we bring forth are not inline In our society, we need laws that can be implemented in our society.Under the recommendations of persons with disabilities, there is a need provision of digital devices for online learning for children, internet facilities, accessible transportation for the differently-abled persons especially women, disability bill not yet passed in Punjab what are the issues the stakeholders are facing? Where are the loopholes in the census where the numbers are shrinking where are women with disabilities in rural areas, women with disabilities have the biggest issues when it comes to the issuance of CNICS.
Mr Yawar Bukhari answered the recommendations that he will forward these recommendations to the DG NADRA and said that the social welfare department has devolved the department down to tehsil level for the issuance of CNIC centres are present. Online forms will be soon issued, it will be made easier. Sociomedical officers’ persons with disabilities will be sensitized. The government is amending the disabilities bill and pursuing it.In the Transgender community, recommendations were on the involvement of the Trans community in budget allocation, sensitization of govt officials, public spaces made trans inclusive.Mr Yawar Bukhari commented that for the first time the government is working on opening a skill development centre for the trans community where they will be trained on relevant skills in the ways of business, he also said that he’s working on small loans through the ‘Ehsas’ program.Human Rights Department also commented that they are working on the bill for Transgender Rights in Punjab.Mr Bukhari also said that we are focusing on girl child (education) and are bringing back 30 lakh children back to school were in the same vicinity secondary classes (second shift) will be providedUnder Health it was stated by the government that we have a lot of agencies working on mother and child care, 40K health workers in 900 centres.The department of Health also pointed out that allocation of the budget needs to be increased so that the department can further work on reproductive health.
Ms Farida Shaheed, Executive Director Shirkat Gah added that education and health are two sectors where there are no increase in the budgeting, family planning methodologies need to be implemented, PPE need to be provided to not only the doctors but to lady health workers, but everyone who is working in BHUs? Awareness on domestic violence should be provided, gender sensitization in health.BACKGROUND OF THIS MEETINGPakistan ratified CEDAW in 1996. It completed its Fifth Periodic Report process in February 2020. While Pakistan’s Sixth Period Review is due in 2024 based on the CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations will be reporting on some issues raised in the Concluding Observations next year, in 2022. Similarly, Pakistan was the first country to integrate the SDGs in its national development agendas: Pakistan Vision 2025, and the SDG National Framework for which federal and provincial SDG Units have been established to this end. Therefore, our discussion will focus on the achievement of SDGs and the CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations and what initiatives the Government of the Punjab is taking in this regard, civil society recommendations and how government and civil society can work together in this regard.
The Consultation is part of SG and DCHD’s ongoing work under its Securing Activists for Freedom and Empowerment of Women and Girls (SAFE), supported by the EU, to create platforms of engagement for gender-equal laws and policies. SG has been working with the government for the empowerment of women and girls, gender equality and appropriate development since 1976. SG enjoys UN ECOSOC status, has a long history of engaging with UN processes and has multiple reports and publications on CEDAW, the Beijing Platform for Action and SDGs.