KARACHI - Like other parts of the globe, the International Women’s Day was observed in Pakistan including port city on Thursday. Various programmes were held to mark the Day with an aim to spread awareness of women‘s rights in the society. The theme of this year is Press for Progress.

Addressing a seminar titled “Traditional Knowledge and Cultural History of Pakistani Women”, Karachi University Vice Chancellor Dr Ajmal Khan said that Pakistani women are now playing a vital role in every field of life in addition to their traditional responsibilities. A big reason of this is the increasing trend of education among women, he added.

“Human resource and manpower of any country play a vital role in its development. We need to keep into consideration that almost half of our total population comprises women, so we need to provide them maximum opportunities to play their role in country’s progress. Women are a key pillar of any society, a society cant progress without them. They are a basic need of a society,” the VC added.

The seminar was organised by Centre of Excellence for Women’s Studies, KU in collaboration with Social Welfare Department, Government of Sindh, Women Development Department, Department of Social Work KU and Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Niswan at the center of excellence for women studies KU.

Addressing the audience, Dean Social Sciences KU Prof Dr Muhammad Ahmed Qadri said that Islam granted unprecedented dignity to the women, other nations are now providing this dignity to women impressed by Islam. In the contemporary world, women are standing side by side with men and their role in every field is prominent from education sector to engineering.

Director Center of Excellence in Women Studies KU Prof Dr Nasreen Aslam Shah said that the intelligent and educated women must stand up against the feudal anti women customs and traditions. Our women are hard working but they don’t get well deserved compensation for their work due to the presence of middleman.  Domestic violence, child labor and child abuse are some of the major problems of our society, Shah added.

On the occasion, stalls of handmade items were on display which attracted the visitors. Research journals of the center  i.e 7th Volume of the Journal of Applied Social Sciences and 16th volume of Pakistan journal of gender studies were also launched on the occasion. Poster competition was also held on the occasion moreover, students from all provinces presented their cultures which were highly appreciated by the audience.

Furthermore, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) jointly marked the International Women’s Day by celebrating the achievements of female students and alumni under the USAID-funded Merit and Need-based Scholarship Programme at the Commission Secretariat.

Helen M Pataki, USAID-Pakistan Mission Director (Acting) was the guest of honour during the ceremony, whereas Dr Arshad Ali, Executive Director, HEC, Dr Samina Qadir, Vice Chancellor, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, and Waseem Hashmi Syed, Advisor Human Resource Development, HEC were also present along with a large number of faculty members and students.

In his welcome address, Dr Arshad Ali paid glowing tribute to Pakistani women, especially those associated with academia, and said women play a pivotal role in development of nations. He said ensuring gender equality through its programmes is among the foremost priorities of HEC.

He underscored that women’s universities are playing vital role in the education of female professionals, artists, writers, and thinkers who are the future leaders of an educated, enlightened, ethical and prosperous Pakistan. He maintained that HEC encourages female researchers to avail themselves of the opportunities provided by HEC under various initiatives. He reiterated the HEC’s resolve to ensuring strong commitment to Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Act 2010. He said the role of HEC cannot be denied in achieving the goals of human resource development and transition to the knowledge-based economy.

Moreover, Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Women Wing took out a rally from Sindh Assembly to Karachi Press Club (KPC) to mark international Women‘s Day.

A large number of PPP workers participated in the rally. They chanted slogans in favour of women rights. The rally was led by PPP MNA Faryal Talpur and Syed Nafisa Shah.

Speaking on the occasion, Talpur said that PPP had always encouraged women and struggled for their rights. She said on the International day of women we remember the great women leader including Shaheed Benzair Bhutto, Fatima Jinnah, Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, who rendered sacrifices for the country.

The Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) held a rally to mark the Day and demanded to end all discriminatory laws against women, and accept them as equal citizens.

The rally led HBWWF general secretary Zehra Khan was taken out from MA Jinnah Road and concluded at KPC. Hundreds of women workers, representatives of trade unions and social and political organizations attended the rally.

The speakers said that the society could only be made democratic and progressive by ending discriminatory laws and biased attitudes against women. They said the Pakistani women, especially the women workers have been struggling against the society that it based on exploitation.

“The working women of this country are celebrating their international day in very difficult conditions. They like the working women of other countries are also braving multiple exploitations. On one hand there are reactionary traditions, customs and old thinking that have kept the women in slavery chains and on the other hand the women workers are braving the worst exploitation of the capitalist system, in which they are given lesser wages as compared to wages of male workers and they have to work for more hours.”

The speakers said the harassment of women at workplace has become a routine. In Pakistan the women, especially girls and non-Muslim women have been braving mental, physical and sexual torture in factories and farms. This menace is on the rise. When they demand their due rights, the feudal lords, mills owners and the management take coercive actions against them. Sadly, there is no section in the labour laws of this country to end harassment of women at workplace, they added.

On the occasion, HBWWF also presented their charter of demand, asking the Sindh government to announce the law for home based workers as soon as possible and Pakistan should rectify the homework convention 177 of the International Labor Organization.

The other demands included that the feudal and tribal system should be ended from the country, as this system has kept women enslaved for centuries, all anti women traditions should be ended, discrimination to women, karo-kari and honour killings should be ended.

They also demanded that legal system should be improved and its access to common citizens ensured, effective legislation should be carried out to end the religious extremism and it should also be implemented.

“There should be equal wages for equal work and the wages of workers should be increased. The maternity and post maternity leaves of women workers should be increased and also implemented. The women should be given representation in all elected institution on the basis of their ratio in population,” HBWWF demanded.