MITHI - Making one of Pakistan’s most impoverished districts the first stop of her first official visit to the country, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on Wednesday called upon the entire community to end child marriages and voice their commitment to change the lives of girls and young women for the better future.

“Becoming a zero child-marriage village will require everyone’s efforts. Girls and young women must have the means and information to make their own decisions. They need to know that they are not property. They have both rights and a voice to say no,” says Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka in her dialogue with over 300 residents, notables of the area, government officials, civil society representatives and members of the local press.

They gathered at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Cultural Complex in the district capital, Mithi, at an event to mark the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign.

“When the whole nation commits to tackling deep-rooted traditions like child marriage head-on, millions of girls stand to benefit. This is also a task for men, who can accelerate progress by saying simply ‘I will not marry a child’,” the executive director said.

Calling on religious and traditional leaders to use their position of authority to take a stance  against violence and protect the rights of girls, the executive director received pledges from religious clerics, registrars and local politicians to make Thar as  a ‘zero child marriage’ village and set an example for others to follow.

It is estimated that there are 650 million women and girls in the world today who were married before age 18. During the past decade, the global rate of child marriage has declined from one in four young women aged 20-24 being married as children, to almost one in five.

At the national 16 days of activism event in this southeast district of Pakistan, the executive director encouraged families and the community to be more vigilant to prevent and report cases of under-aged marriage.  She also urged the religious leaders who solemnise marriages to confirm whether the bride and groom are of legal age, stressing the importance of birth certificates and national identity cards for verification child is 18.

“The decision to marry should be a freely made, informed decision that is taken without fear, coercion, or undue pressure,” said the Executive Director. “By speaking out against child marriage, religious and traditional leaders can help to change the social and cultural norms that perpetuate the practice even when there are laws in place to prevent it.”

Social and gender inequality, a desire to control women’s sexuality and protect family honour, economic hardship and lack of awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage are common driving factors. Working with men and boys is critical to end such marriages as in many communities where men hold the power and make the decisions.

The Minister for Women Development for the Province of Sindh, Syeda Shehla Raza, said that early child marriage is among the contributing factors to both relatively high rates of maternal and child mortality in Tharparkar, which needs urgent attention through multi-pronged interventions. She added that the Government of Sindh is doing everything possible to ensure the implementation of laws related to women’s health and the

Chief Executive Officer Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) Dr. Allah Nawaz Samoo gave welcome remarks and an overview of TRDP work on gender equality in lower Sindh. Mr Samoo urged that under the given situations there concerted to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals particularly to integrate the goal of gender inequality with poverty  reduction.

On the occasion, PPP MNA, Dr. Mehesh Kumar Malani, PPP Senator Krishna Kumari, MPA Tanzila Qambar, the government officials were also present during the event. Dr Malani, SSP Thar Imran Qurashi, Ms Kumari and others alsp presented the traditional gifts to guests.

DC HOLDS MEETING ON SAFE HOUSE COMMITTEE

Deputy Commissioner Badin, Hafeez Ahmed Siyal presided a meeting of safe house committee. Additional Deputy Commissioner Dr Ali Nawaz Bhoot, Additional Deputy Commissioner Asadullah Khoso, Deputy Director, social welfare, Abdul Ghaffar Khoso, security Incharge, Ashraf Nunari and representatives of NGOs.

DC Badin directed assistant director, social welfare that staff and other needed facilities must be provided to safe house so that women could be provided residence as per court orders.

On the other hand, DC Badin also presided a meeting in connection with maintenance and of filter plants and RO plants installed in the city. The meeting was participated by ADC (one) ADC (two), Executive Engineer, public health, Barkat Ali Khuwaja, CMO Badin, Javed Ali, Assistant Commissioners of talukas.