Majority of civil society organisations termed the devolution of the Ministry for Women Development (MoWD) a positive step for promoting women rights, with a very few fearing its negative consequences.
Talking to APP, Executive Director Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) Sameena Nazir said, “We fully support the process of devolution as a democratic step that will ensure provincial autonomy and help strengthen women divisions.”
She said the provinces had been struggling for a long time to get autonomy and this process should be extended to the district level as well to empower women.
MoWD had been executing various activities in the provinces including establishment of Women Crisis Centres across the country which can be handed over to the provincial departments to avoid duplication, she said.
Sameena called for integration of all the ministries for ensuring women access to rights. The agriculture ministry must work for the welfare of female farmers, just as the education and health ministries must ensure access of basic facilities to women.
“Women labourers are working in various industries i.e textile, shoe and bangle industries but there is no mechanism to provide them security at a grass root level,” Sameena said. For implementing international conventions like Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Sameena stressed the need to strengthen National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), saying that those commitments which need to kept as federal subjects should be given to the commission.
Member Alliance Against Sexual Harassment and Women Rights activist Fauzia Saeed said MoWD should be transferred to the provinces like education, health, culture and others. “We believe that mainstreaming gender within the devolution framework as well as setting up women specific safeguards at the provincial level is the only way forward and we fully support this process,” Fauzia said.
Mehrgarh, Pattan Development Organisation, AASHA, Bedari, Women Councilors Network, women rights activist and gender experts, Farzana Bari, Nazish Brohi, Afia Zia in a joint message said, “We, the members of civil society organisations, gender rights activists and experts noted with concern that Aurat Foundation criticized the post-18th amendment devolution program and termed the devolution of Ministry for Women’s Development as anti-women and unjust. As firm believers of democracy, we have a faith that people via provinces have the capacity and commitment to work for the benefits for all citizens including women. The Constitution of Pakistan provides the basic framework within which all provinces can work for the rights of women. While we appreciate the efforts made over decades by the MOWD, it is important not to overstate its contribution to promote women’s rights.”
The activists said they strongly supported the devolution of MoWD within the context of post-18th amendment, as it is vitally important that the mainstreaming of gender across ministries must be made the responsibility of the provinces. National Coordinator, Aurat Foundation Waseem Waga said that a national consultation will be arranged on April 13 to discuss the impact of devolution process. All stakeholders will be gathered at the conference to share their views regarding women rights in light of 18th amendment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2011.
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