Women from across the country shared their struggles and experiences at a gathering organised by civil society organisations in connection with the International Women’s Day while participants at an event debated the draft guidelines for media on Friday here.
The guidlines have been framed by Pakistan Press Council after consultation with the National Commission on the Status of Women, Uks and Rozan for media while covering gender issues.
Salient features of the guidelines include discouraging negative and stereotypical portrayal of women, ensuring at least 33 per cent representation of women in media houses at all levels, building capacity of media practitioners to improve gender sensitive reporting, avoiding sensationalism in covering gender issues and commodification of women in news and entertainment and respecting privacy of individuals in cases involving rape etc.
In a separate event, women victims of conflict from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) shared their stories.
Women, who lost their male family members gathered at the Lok Visa to share their traumatic experiences at an event titled “Conflict Victims Support Project”, organised by the USAID.
Aliya Tufail is a mother of three from Charsadda. Her husband was killed in a suicide attack in 2009.
Mother of four, Raffat Bibi from Khyber Agency never thought that one day she will have to raise her children on charity money. But a suicide blast changed her life when her husband lost one leg in a suicide blast.
The project has given her two cows to start a milk selling business.
Rubina Tabbasum, 42, who had suffered serious injuries during the Peshawar Church blast, said, “I had been teaching at a private school for 22 years, but after the injuries, I lost my job.”
“I don’t want to become burden on my family, therefore with help from the project, I started my own small garments business.”
USAID Mission Director Gregory Gottlieb addressing the participants said, “women play an integral part in the development of a society and I am sure that you will leave a legacy of hard work and bravery that your children will be proud of. The people of the USA stand by the people of K-P and FATA through your difficulties and will continue to promote stability and prosperity throughout the region.”
Enacting their tales
In yet another event, nine female actors, all survivors of gender-based violence, narrated some poignant personal experiences in the play “Inspiring Change” at a local hotel.
Debunking the myth that domestic violence is a private matter, the play targeted the stereotypical mindset that women should conform to conservative norms that limit them from realising their true potential.
Wardah*, 23, reenacted her escape from home when her parents forcibly married her to a man who did not approve of her aspirations to work and support her mother. She had to put her dreams of a career on the backburner and find refuge in a cross-city shelter home.
All Neha*,20, had asked of her husband was to work, quit drugs and not beat her up. Frustrated by her incessant pleading, he threw acid on her, damaging her face, hands and feet. It was then that she too stock of herself and her toddler daughter. “I had all but given up on life,” said the acid survivor, whose orange hijab concealed only some of the scars. She now runs her own boutique line and tends to daughter who is her “greatest gift.”
“It’s brave of these women to speak out about their lives and everything they had to go through. They have lived through adversity and refuse to dub down to circumstance, which is a feat in itself,” said Arsalan, a university student and audience member.
Solving Kohistan-video mystery
In a seminar on ‘Pakistan Women Fighting Extremism and Violence: A Case of Kohistan Women’ participants urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to re-open the Kohistan video scandal case and order the K-P administration to produce those five women in front of Supreme Court which they are claiming to be alive.
It was organized by Pattan Development Foundation in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
They also urged the need to review local jirga system with regard to its impacts on women and stressed the state functionaries to get implemented the pro-women laws in letter and spirit.
Rights activist Dr Farzana Bari said “these culprits are a real threat to other innocent women and men in the area. If not punished they would continue taking more lives,” she said.
Dr Bari also raised some questions about legislative lacunae. “Why our civil justice system is so ineffective? Why jirga and punchayat systems are so powerful”, she asked
Senator Mushahid Hussain said the issue of extremism and violence against women go together.
“Mostly jirga issues are anti women,” he said.
Amtul Raqeeb Award for woman
The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) conferred its third Amtul Raqeeb Award on seven women to acknowledge their contribution towards community-driven development.
The award recipients include Asma Attaullah from Balochistan, Nusrat Yusuf from Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Kulsoom Akhtar from Multan, Rubina Lashari from Thatta, Zewar Bano from Gilgit-Baltistan, Samina from Swat and Abida Mustafa from Balochistan, according to a PPAF press release.
The women were engaged in PPAF-support community development initiatives around the country.
Justice Retd Yasmin Abbasey, the federal ombudsman for protection against harassment of women at workplace, conferred the awards during a ceremony at the PPAF offices on Friday. Abbasey said “by focusing on women education, we can lay down strong foundations of an enlightened and prosperous society,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2014.