Islamabad - Politicians, activists and government representatives have called for effective parliamentary representation of women with disabilities with allocation of reserved seats for them.

They said this while addressing the first ‘South Asia Conference on the Role of Women with Disabilities in Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ here yesterday.

Chairman Senate Raza Rabani in his address to women with disabilities said, “It is sad to say that we have become an insensitive society, and so we fail to realize the issues of minorities and person with special needs. “We spend millions and billions to construct buildings, hotels, roads, metro buses, but what about building ramps for persons with disabilities which do not take much money – thus it is not matter of money but matter of insensitivity. Let me say that in fact we, the ruling elite, are in fact persons with disabilities in ourselves.” He urged to start a campaign for building ramps everywhere and supported the idea of allocating seats reserved for women with disabilities. “It is imperative that women with disabilities shall get representative in the parliament.”

Shaista Pervaiz Malik, MNA & Secretary Women Parliament Caucus, chairing the first session said that with more than a billion people living with some form of disability, the subject indeed calls for special attention. A major chunk of women with disabilities, almost 70%, lives in rural areas. The article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan demands equality and non-discrimination on all grounds, and UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, CEDAW and ICCPR, wherein Pakistan is also signatory, demand the same.

She said that Women Parliamentary Caucus has given its recommendations to the Electoral Reforms Committee for the inclusion of women with disabilities in the parliament on reserved seats.

MQM MNA Fauzia Hameed in her address said that persons with disabilities (PWDs) are the most marginalized because they are ‘unseen, unheard and uncounted’ in the country. There are no serious attempts made by any government to conduct a comprehensive survey to assess the problems of person with disabilities. She said that National Population Census, 1998, says that only 2.49 percent (3,286,630) of the total population are PWDs which are not correct. For taking this a correct figure for the time being, in total population of 3.3 million, Sindh has a share of 929,000 persons that is almost one million people. As far as Sindh province is concerned, 60.2% live in urban areas against 39.8% in rural area. This case is reverse in other provinces. Segregating data by gender, it is interesting to note that male population of PWDs 58.4% which is significantly higher than female population of 441.6%, which shows women population is highly under reported due to cultural taboos. In the wake of 18th Constitutional Amendment, in 2010, there have arisen more ambiguities in roles and responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments on the problems of PWDs. But Sindh government took a lead and passed the Sindh Differently Abled Persons (Employment, Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act 2014 in February 2015. Although this is not a women specific legislation but deals with all differently abled persons at par.

JUI-F MNA Aliya Kamran Murtaza spoke on ‘women with disabilities – programs and initiatives in Punjab.’ She suggested that like job quota for women in general a job quota for women with disabilities shall also be allocated.

JI MNA Ayesha Syed said in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province 41 % women and 59%, men are disable; whereas 87% of them live in rural areas and 13% in urban areas. Social society activists and government representatives also addressed the conference.