Islamabad - The Aurat Foundation celebrated seven years of achievements of the Gender Equity Program (GEP) held at a local hotel on Thursday. Implemented by the financial backing of the United States Agency for International Development, GEP is the largest stand-alone gender initiative turned movement in Pakistan.

American Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, Christina Tomlinson congratulated the GEP and its participating members, while expressing her thoughts at the event, for their vigilance in constantly striving towards women empowerment in the country.  She highlighted the overall goals of the program previously also mentioned by Younas Khalid, Chief of Party GEP in his address.

“Today is a good moment to reflect on the progress we’ve made and to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in the history of their country,” Tomlinson said.

“Gender equity and women’s empowerment cannot simply be a part of development; it must be at the centre of development. Advancing the status of women and girls worldwide is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do.”

Acting Executive Director of the Aurat Foundation, Naeem Mirza emphasised the success of GEP by stating that the program worked towards institutionalizing and enabling a capacity for gender equity at privatized organisations, government departments, public sector universities, bar councils, and judicial academies. He thanked the United States government for its aid during this venture.

“Nigar Ahmed and Shehla Zia were no less than missionaries, founding and leading on the Aurat Foundation and taking this gender equity movement from urban areas to every household in the country.” said Mirza.

At the ceremony, the GEP’s work, progress and reach were presented via short films during its seven year tenure. Booklets, pamphlets and brochures were made available to attendees to delve deep into the statistical studies and social surveys providing hard facts to the common man.

Then interesting performances followed. Hilarious wordplay by Farooq Qaiser as Uncle Sargam, accompanied by Maasi Museebtay, got quite a response from the audience.

 Moreover, Shehzad Roy’s vocals and his band’s extraordinary musical talent graced the occasion and the acclaimed singer and humanitarian not only sang admirably but also spoke powerfully and prolifically while stressing gender equity.  The best thing about the Gender Equity Program (GEP) is the preference of the word ‘equity’ over ‘equality’ as equality makes the naive assumption that everybody is the same.

Whereas, equity accounts for all kinds of differences between people and allows them to avail societal and work opportunities. The purpose is to involve empathy and a deeper understanding of people and their needs, weaknesses and strengths.

Statistically speaking, over the years, the GEP has awarded 275 sub-grants to government and non-government entities striving for the same goals. Sensitization of the female and male population has gone far beyond what the Aurat Foundation had originally aimed for, with 6,475 women workers sensitised in 15 Women Workers Conventions in 15 districts and 6,809 women workers trained on women laws and on prevention of Sexual Harassment Act 2010.

The Aurat Foundation further aims to collaborate with different organisations to carry forward the torch now lit by GEP towards a better future for women in Pakistan. Doing so by helping address, counter and prevent Gender Based Violence (GBV), improving women’s access to justice, promoting female economic empowerment and political participation while making sure every woman has access to quality education and healthcare.

dua anjum