Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that the women’s rights movement has made tremendous strides in the last century. However, more efforts needed to be done in this regard.
He was addressing a high-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the fourth world conference on women.
He said that while progress is being made, we are off the pace to fully achieve our objectives. "Twenty-five years on, many commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action await realisation," he added.
Qureshi said that a lot more is desired worldwide in achieving gender equality. Women’s role in the social, economic and political spheres is still restricted. Women, on average, earn less than men. Violence against them is endemic.
"In conflict situations, especially in territories under foreign occupation, they are targeted with impunity, and rape and sexual violence is used as an instrument of subjugation. Disasters affect them disproportionally," he added.
He said that the Covid crisis has shown how these pre-existing structural inequalities exacerbate problems for women.
FM Qureshi said that Pakistan’s commitment to women empowerment is derived from our religion, cultural ethos, vision of our founders, and the ideals espoused in our constitution.
"We have worked for women’s rights since the very beginning of the United Nations. During the drafting of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our distinguished delegate Baigum Shaista Ikramullah played an active role in the inclusion of Article 16. In Beijing, the first women Prime Minister from the Muslim world, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, rallied women from developing countries and gave voice to their lived experiences."
The foreign minister said that we are and endeavouring to create a welfare Islamic state, based on the model of “Riyasat-e-Madinah”, with due protection and promotion of the rights of women. "Our national development paradigm is gender-sensitive. The flagship Ehsaas (or compassion) Programme for poverty alleviation is designed to reduce feminisation of poverty," he added.
He said that through legislative initiatives, we are continuously addressing the issues of violence against women, domestic abuse, harassment, social and property rights protection. "Our National Action Plan on Human Rights has ‘Protection of Women’ as one of its key priority areas. Women Protection Centres and a 24-hour Helpline (1099) have been established to provide free legal advice, redressal and referral mechanism."
Qureshi also said that the number of women at key leadership role has steadily risen in Pakistan. "In recent years, we have had a female prime minister, governor of the State Bank, speaker of the National Assembly and many women as ministers, ambassadors, judges and high-ranking civil servants. Our women are flying fighter jets, serving in UN Peacekeeping operations, and one of them has recently risen to the rank of a three-star general in the military."
The foreign minister said that we can and must learn from each other’s experiences in our journey for women empowerment. The Beijing Platform for Action offers the avenue to achieve that and must be supported by all.
He further said that we will continue to empower women and encourage them to shatter all glass ceilings that hindered their progress in the past.
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