SIALKOT-UN Women organised a ceremony here to observe the International Women's Day and demanded affective measures to ensure women's empowerment and their access to financial opportunities across the country.

It was attended by various agencies, legislators, academia, govt. functionaries, political and social activists, trade bodies, corporate sector, entrepreneurs, civil society organizations and workers.

The theme was "Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women's Lives". The ceremony was organised as a component of advocacy drive of UN Women's project "Empowerment of women garment workers in Sialkot".

Programme Officer of UN Women Punjab Hoorya Syeda while addressing the participants said that women were facing multiple problems which were hindering the process of their growth and development. UN Women is making efforts to overcome all of these difficulties, she said. She appreciated the efforts made by the Punjab government to empower women. She emphasised that achieving gender equality in providing them with access to opportunities for economic growth was its main goal.

Chairperson of SCCI's Committee Women Entrepreneurs Dr Mariyam Nouman endorsed the inevitability of addressing the issues raised in this session. She emphatically said that the women workers were more talented, hardworking and proficient than the male workers. In appreciation of the women workers' faculties, the Sialkot industry was now opening its doors for the women workers. She said that women must have confidence in them. They should learn to move forward and assert on their right.

Divisional Coordinator of Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) Umar Hammad said that PCSW was regularly monitoring the implementation of the women's protection laws. He described that the number of women employees/workers in the public sector institutions was quite negligible. He said that the women should step forward to obtain those facilities the govt had provided for them through quota.

MPA Tariq Subhani said that women were not born to lead live under subjugation. In realisation of the fact, the Punjab government has formulated several policies and promulgated different laws so that rights of the women may not only be saved but they could be be given chance of progress in every field of life.

Executive Director of South Asia Partnership Pakistan Muhammad Tahseen judges could get their pension in accordance with the salary drawn on the last day of their service but workers were not entitled to have the same treatment during their pension calculation.

He said that empowerment of women will only be possible when women would be provided with spaces to perform dynamic role in policy making institutions including the federal and provincial legislatures.

Vice Chancellor of Govt College Women University (GCWU) Dr Farhat Saleemi said that women must be empowered so that they might have choices of their own liking and pursue their own agendas. She added that there must be effective representation of women at policy making.

She stated that education offers viable solution to all the problems thus it must not be the prerogative right of the rich only. The poor girls should also be provided with access to unobstructed opportunities for higher education, she demanded. She said that our society by and large lacks awareness about the rights of women.

Additional Secretary Labor and Human Resource Department, Govt. of the Punjab Dr Sohail Shahzad said that it was the government's resolve to provide equal opportunities of growth for men and women. He said, 'The process of change begins from home so let us move forward to abandon the discriminatory and deregulatory behaviours towards women."

Executive Director of NGO Baidarie Prof Arshad Mehmood said that empowerment of women was associated with the equitable inclusion of women in economic, social and political spheres of mainstream life. He said that women workers who are putting in the best of their potentials in the formal and informal sectors of economy were in fact injecting monetary inputs worth billions of dollars into the national GDP. The invaluable contribution must be acknowledged and appreciated, he added.

President of NGO Baidarie Ms Hina Noureen said that through the efforts made by UN Women and Baidarie, the CEOs of 30 industrial entities in Sialkot had already signed statement of support for women's empowerment principles. The process of gender gap analysis at the first batch of seven factories had been completed and a road map for evolving them to gender responsive entities has been provided.