ISLAMABAD - President Dr. Arif Alvi on Wednesday called for women empowerment through inclusive social and economic policies emphasising true implementation of pro-women laws by doing away with the cultural taboos.

Addressing the brainstorming session on gender-based discrepancies and promotion of legal, economic and social empowerment of women hosted by the Aiwan-s-Sadr here, the President said women cannot be empowered without their economic empowerment.

The event featured a working session on issues confronting women, including property rights, legal, media and other sectors which later presented their recommendations for onward consideration by the government. The president viewed that the session would provide a road-map to the government for devising strategies on women empowerment as was also taught by the Holy Quran and Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) in his last sermon. He said that women need to be encouraged not only in their economic activities but also need social protection.

He said being a gender neutral, the country’s Constitution also guaranteed women rights and even provided special provisions; however, the implementation of the relevant laws was far more important.

Highlighting the issues confronting women like insecurity at police stations, delayed disposal of divorce cases, hesitance to register harassment or rape cases, and domestic violence, the president said such sittings would provide a timeline for relief to the women.

He said owing to lack of awareness; the women were not properly benefiting the loans scheme exclusively announced for them to run small and medium enterprises.

Dr Alvi told the gathering that almost 40 percent pregnancies took place owing to non-availability of contraceptives which must also be thought of while devising the policies.

The president said First Lady Samina Alvi had also been actively running an awareness campaign on breast cancer.

He said the Presidency had also written to the Council of Islamic Ideology to promote the breastfeeding through the pulpit, which would ultimately address the issues of malnutrition and overgrowing population.

Later, the representatives of respective working groups presented their recommendations on rights of women in media, their access to education, health, legal rights and economic empowerment.

Following the recommendations, the president, in his concluding remarks, said all the proposals would be forwarded to the ministries concerned for their point-wise response along with the financial implication of the suggested measures.

He called for a wider discussion in media on women rights and awareness among them about the measures being taken for their facilitation.

Endorsing the pre-dominant campaign about harassment of women on social media, the president said though the men were also the victim of the tendency but the bigger damage was to the women.

He urged the political parties for their non-partisan reaction in such case.

He also agreed to the demand for women-specific facilities like daycare centres, washrooms at workplaces and called for a survey of offices in this regard.

Calling women the lowest risk in debt market, the president called for safe transport, workplace, women courts and their security at police station.

In his remarks, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Nasim said country’s no law permitted any discrimination towards women and highlighted the pro-women laws passed by the government including anti-rape law, legal aid authority and protection of women inheritance rights.

Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz said the protection of women rights could not be ensured without changing public mindset which unfortunately had been transformed after 80s.

He called for revival of cultural values by messaging through the drama and viewed that no media or cultural policy could be enforced successfully by keeping half of the population aloof or in isolation.

Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari appreciated the President for “redefining the presidency in a positive way” and apprised the audience of ministry’s efforts for protection of women, children, transgender and disabled people’s rights. SAPM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said health and education sectors provided the most number of jobs to women.

He said for the first time, nursing degree had been given the bachelor status which would improve their standing the society as well as income.

SAPM Dr Sania Nishtar highlighted the government’s pro-women initiatives under Ehsaas umbrella including cash transfer for 7 million women, interest-free loan, Ehsaas Aamdan and upcoming one woman-one account facility for a modern cash transfer system to the nearby bank instead of camps. Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said the statistics of women in education were yet discouraging, be it the enrollment in schools or drop-out ratio particularly in senior classes.

He said as per literacy rate, 71 percent were male and 49 percent women.

State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul emphasized any legislation to address the issues faced by the women making climate-induced migration to ensure their privacy.