GILGIT: The importance of a computerised national identity card (CNIC) only dawned on 48-year-old Gulchira when she went to purchase a SIM card for herself.
“I was asked for my CNIC number and only then I realised how important this piece of paper actually is,” said Gulchira, a resident of Oshikhandas, a small town about 30 kilometres from Gilgit. “They said I will not be given a SIM without a CNIC.”
Gulchira was not the only woman in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) without an identity card at the time. Hundreds of women did not possess one as they were unaware of its importance, while the men did not think it was worthwhile to get it made for them.
Following a survey of the region conducted by local NGO Publishing and Extension Network (PEN), the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), in collaboration with the former, launched a programme titled ‘Register Women Without CNICs’ in 13 union councils of Gilgit.
“So far, we have gotten around 2,500 women registered with Nadra,” said PEN chief Ejaz Khan. “We are now targeting the remaining women,” he said. The project was being funded by Aurat Foundation.
Under the programme, a team comprising female social organisers was initially sent into valleys including Chakarkot, Haramosh and Bagrote among others to identify women without CNICs. The team not only conducted interviews of the women in 13 valleys, but also mobilised the men to allow women to get registered with Nadra.
“It took us months to convince the residents,” said Saima Abbas, a member of the interviewing team. “Initially, most of the men were hesitant to allow their women to register,” she said. Some reasons for not registering them included lack of awareness, poverty and cultural restrictions in the male-dominated society, she added.
During the programme, a NADRA mobile van with technical staff also assisted PEN’s staff and spent at least three days in every valley, registering as many women as possible. “In some areas, after finishing the women’s CNIC registration, we even registered men who did not have identity cards,” said Hamidullah, a Nadra official.
The nine-month long registration programme was initiated last year and will end this month.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2013.
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