Fauzia Viqar has spent the last 15 years of her life defending women. Not only has she done this in Pakistan – but has also had the opportunity to highlight women and women-related issues in Geneva for the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) four times, and at the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan.
While talking to The Express Tribune of some struggles she had to face, Viqar said society’s mindset and militancy were a big problem. She claimed many people viewed women’s rights as ‘Western propaganda.’
In October 2012, Viqar’s struggle on the issue of child marriages was raised at a meeting of the Universal Periodic Review and was added to their agenda when they discussed major problems being faced in different countries. During the meeting, they announced Pakistan should end child marriages and the minimum legal marriageable age for a girl should be raised to 18.
The following year she raised issues faced by women who defended human rights in Pakistan – their impact and conflicts.
Viqar’s professional and voluntary work with the government and NGOs has given her international recognition for her expertise in gender and race-based discrimination. She has held senior management level and advisory positions in the government and has also worked with civil society organisations in Canada.
Viqar also has experience in working on policy and legal reform issues, gender based violence and local government. Her presence in government committees of Punjab—social welfare, women’s development department and Distress and Detention Fund for Women, Pakistan—ensure input and implementation of laws and policies for women’s empowerment, human rights and holds the government accountable for their national and international commitments.
From 2010 to 2014 she was the advocacy director at Shirkat Gah, where she worked on issues of domestic violence, amendments to the age of marriage, honour killing and acid crimes legislation.
In March 2014, she was appointed as the first chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women. After she took charge, the commission successfully launched a toll-free helpline, 0800-93372 in collaboration with the Women Development department.
She said so far the commission had followed up with more than 300 complaints made by women. She added the commission was presently working on amendments to laws regarding honour killings, domestic violence, and social welfare. Viqar’s personal victory is the Acid Crime Bill which is expected to be passed and implemented soon.
You can read other stories from this series here.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2014.