ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that in line with the vision of the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, the present Parliament has undertaken landmark legislation on many women issues.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said this while addressing a function organised on the occasion of International Women Day by the Ministry of Human Rights. Dr Fehmida Mirza, Speaker National Assembly, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights, Fizza Batool Gilani, Goodwill Ambassador for Women Development, Saeed Ahmad Alvi, Secretary Ministry of Human Rights were among the speakers.

“Issues such as acid throwing, forced marriages, marriage with the Holy Quran, denial of right to inheritance, and harassment at workplace etc have been made offence in the eyes of law. We consider these evils, not only as crimes against women but crimes against humanity. These crimes are deep rooted in our social fabric through centuries old customs and un-Islamic traditions, the PM said. It is in this context that legislative enactments such as “Women Protection from Harassment at Workplace Act 2010, Amendment in PPC 509, Acid Crime Prevention Act 2011, the Prevention of anti-Women Practices Act 2011 and Fund for Women in Distress and Detention Act 2011” would go a long way in empowering women to take charge of their lives. These measures are reflective of the government’s commitment and sincere efforts to address women-related issues to ensure their greater participation in the national mainstream, he added.

‘Projects aimed at economic empowerment are part of the government’s efforts to create income generating activities for the marginalized women. The Benazir Income Support Program is the largest ever programme to provide financial support directly to the women of the poor households. Among others, it provides skills and technical training, health insurance and interest-free loans’.

It is not only contributing directly to the income of seven million poor families across the country but has also empowered women by channeling cash transfers through them.

He believed that initiatives by the BISP have contributed to women empowerment in FATA as well. Door-to-door poverty survey has been completed in Bajaur and Kurram agencies while it is under process in other tribal areas. The programme for distribution of land to landless Haris, initiated in November, 2008, is another major step. Over 56,000 acres of state land have been distributed among over 6,000 women beneficiaries.

Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza stressed for collaborative efforts to empower rural women as she said that 80 percent of all agriculture work is done by the women. She suggested Parliamentary check on key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets and urged the provinces to take forward the unfinished agenda of Domestic Violence Bill and legislation on Home Based Workers.

Goodwill Ambassador for Women Development Fizza Batool Gilani demanded permanent status for the contractual staff of Benazir Bhutto Crisis Centre in Islamabad. She said that change cannot come without the change in the mindset of men.

Fiza Batool Gilani stressed upon all mothers that they should treat their sons and daughters on equal footing so that concepts of gender equality and non-discrimination against women become the part of their training at home. The Goodwill Ambassador said that curricula being taught in Pakistani institutions need overhauling as it need to be brought in line with the concepts of gender equality and non-discrimination against women.

The dream of women empowerment can only be turned into tangible reality by bringing about positive shift in the mindsets of people regarding gender equality. Only true and active participation of womenfolk in social, economic and political spheres of national activity can ensure national progress.