KARACHI: This is with reference to Kashmali Khan’s article “What Benazir (did not) do for women” on June 30. Ms Khan’s criticism of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s efforts on women’s emancipation is deplorable. Mohtarma, like her father before her, worked tenaciously for women’s rights, and did everything in her power to achieve gender equality. In line with promises made in PPP’s manifesto, her governments initiated a broad programme for social action. The Women’s Development Bank was set up to give credit to enterprising women; 100,000 lady health workers were trained and recruited to provide primary health care and educate women on child care, nutrition and birth control. General Ziaul Haq’s ban on women’s participation in international sports was lifted. In addition, they established the Ministry of Women Development, women police station,
National Commission on Maternal and Child Health, crisis and burns centres, hostels, vocational training institutes and gender studies programmes in universities across the country. Moreover, her governments’ commitment to women’s rights is also evident from the fact that Pakistan became a signatory to the Beijing Declaration Platform for Action in 1995 and Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women in 1996. These steps show that her commitment to women’s struggle were neither superficial not symbolic. She noted in her book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West that, “The law must be gender-blind. Democracy cannot work if women are subjugated, uneducated and unable to be independent.” Keeping her views in mind, the present government is trying to reduce Pakistan’s gender divide. Our gendersensitive initiatives such as the Benazir Income Support Programme, the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Sindh government’s land grant programme and other measures speak volumes for the government’s resolve to fulfil her vision.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2010.
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