KARACHI: Gender equality and safeguarding rights of children are must for any society to survive and progress, said the National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza at the launching ceremony of the Madadgaar National Helpline.
“Women and children are considered amongst the most vulnerable sections of a society and it is the responsibility of the government and the civil society to ensure protection of their rights,” said Mirza, while urging the provincial governments to assist organisations which work for the rights of children and women. “The Madadgaar Helpline is not a new name in providing counseling to distressed women and children in Pakistan as it has already completed a decade of service in Sindh in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).”
Mirza advised other civil society organisations to establish similar initiatives and open helplines for women and children in rural parts of the country.
She said that provincial governments also need to step us since the 18th Amendment empowers them to deal with issues related to the protection of women and children.
“For the first time in our history, we have a female speaker and a female foreign minister. We have a woman as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and we have a separate Ombudsman for women,” said Mirza. “Women empowerment was the dream of Benazir Bhutto and the present government has taken all steps to fulfill it.”
She also assured her help to Madadgaar in getting a four-digit telephone number for better accessibility and service.
Help- just a call away
The Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid president, Zia Ahmed Awan, said that through Madadgaar, help will be just a call away. “We have an agenda for Pakistan, which is to help distressed women and children,” said Awan. “Madadgaar aims to listen to people in need.”
The Madadgaar initiative was highly praised and its efforts since its inception in 2001 were appreciated by members of the civil society as well as officials of law enforcement agencies. Unicef Pakistan’s Smaranda Popa, Zulfiqar Rafiq of Plan Pakistan, human rights ministry director general Mohammad Hassan Mangi, and AIG Operations Amir Farooqi, were among those who shared their experiences with Madadgaar. The speakers were unanimous that such services were required in the country. “Male chauvinism has no place in a progressive society,” said Karachi administrator, Mohammed Hussain Syed. “No society can progress till the rights of its citizens are respected and safeguarded, especially of women and children.”
He offered the Madadgaar office bearers to work together with the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, saying it caters to a population of about 20 million.
The speakers raised various issues related to women and children, including domestic violence and abuse. They appealed to the government to take required steps and help the organisations working for the betterment of the communities. The Madadgaar Helpline started from Karachi and its services have been extended to other provinces with its three focal points in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.