LAHORE: The Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (SMU) is considering setting up a Violence Against Women Centres Authority to ensure protection of women’s rights, SMU Senior Member Salman Sufi said on Monday.
He was speaking at the launch ceremony of a Women Ride with Pride project under which women could get scooties on an installment plan. The project is a joint venture of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) and the Community Support Concern (CSC), a non-government organisation.
Sufi said the SMU had taken landmark steps to curb incidents of violence against women. He said a Gender Crimes DIG’s office had been established in the Police Department to deal with domestic violence cases.
“I wish that women’s rights are protected. Women should be given exposure so that they can become professionals and contribute towards building a soft image of the country,” he said.
Sufi said the SMU would extend its full cooperation to the project. He said that it had earlier arranged motorcycle driving training and a rally of women motorcyclists in collaboration with the City Traffic Police. He said the unit planned to continue holding such trainings.
Earlier, PCSW chairperson Fauzia Viqar said the mobility was recognised as a fundamental right in the Unites Nations Charter on Human Rights. She said it was not recognised as such in Pakistan. She said women needed to struggle to get it recognised as a fundamental right.
Viqar said the PCSW was working since 2014to curb discrimination against women. She said it had set up a women’s helpline for the purpose. The civil society and the government were agreed on the need to eliminate discrimination against women. “We will take up the issue of right to mobility for women. We will not give up the cause on account of retrogressive values,” she said.
In his introductory note, stage secretary Ammar Ali Jan said that in the last two decades many women had entered the country’s labour market, traditionally dominated by men. He said lack of facilities for a safe commute from their homes to their workplaces was among the many problems faced by these working women.
CSC chief executive officer Shaista Khalid Jan said lack of transport facilities was huge issue for working women from low-income households. She said in most instances they were dependent on male relatives for the purpose. She said her organisation had been working for several years to empower working women through its micro-finance loan programme. She said provision of scooties on an installment plan was her organisation’s most recent initiative in this regard.
Sumera Yousaf, one of the beneficiaries of the project, shared her experience as a sole bread earner for her family since her brother’s injury in a road accident. She said poor state of public transport facilities had made it extremely difficult for her to commute from home to work and back. She said that while waiting for buses at bus stands she had suffered harassment on several occasions. She said she was happy to get a scooty on an installment plan because now she would no longer depended on others for her transport needs.
A play titled Aaj Ki Aurat (women nowadays) was also performed at the ceremony. It commented on discrimination and other problems faced by working women. Keys of scooties were distributed among women at the end.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2016.