ISLAMABAD - There is a need of an integrated and comprehensive approach to address the issues of adolescent girls in Pakistan. 

National Commission on the Status of Women, in collaboration with Research and Development Solutions (RADS) organised a consultation on "Understanding How Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Pakistan Learn, Process and Use Reproductive and Maternal Health Information" on Friday.

The sitting brought together parliamentarians, decision-makers and civil society members to moot adolescent girls’ access to reproductive health information, educational opportunities and avoiding risks of early age marriages.

Balighur Rehman emphasised the need to have a national commission for education syllabus to ensure standards of education and uniformity in education in all the provinces. He said that the government was taking steps to increase the literacy rate to 90 per cent in the coming three years.

Moreover, one-room schools will be established to promote education. Addressing the issue of talibanisation, he said that no one could take away the fundamental rights of a citizen.

Speaking at the occasion, Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson NCSW, quoting from a research said, “We have a large number of young population and 7 per cent of them are girls. 40 per cent adolescents' get married when they are under the age of 18 and 60 per cent children are out of schools at the secondary level and a large number of them are girls. Lack of information and specifically regarding reproductive and maternal health is another issue. We need to work on the implementation of the laws as well while drafting ad legislation new laws.'

Using findings of studies and research papers, an attempt was made to recognise the gravity of the issue and shape out solutions in the form of potential strategies and advocacy complemented by result-oriented policies.

Some of the aspects highlighted through the researches of Ayesha Khan (Research and Development Studies) and Dr Tabinda Sarosh (Shirkat Gah) highlighted the issues of adolescent girls include lack of education and educational facilities, lack of health and sanitary facilities, patriarchal control over decision-making and mobility, harmful cultural practices, early child marriages, lack of information on reproductive health issues and maternal health.

They stressed the need for seeing the interconnectivity of these issues. Both the researchers and group emphasised the need to implement the national legislation and international commitments to ensure the rights of a girl child and women including Child Restraint Marriage Act, 1929, Anti-Women Practices Act 2011, Convention to Eliminate Discrimination and Violence against Women (CEDAW).

They emphasised to devise specific policy for adolescent girls and boys except youth. Change in syllabus and registration of birth, marriage and death; flow of information on RH in simple and language understandable to the community were also needed steps.

They stressed the pro-active role of media and parliamentarians to address the issue and promote girl and women friendly legislation and its implementation. They also suggested devising law on the right to primary health care provision.

They stressed the need for affirmative social action to ensure healthy and productive youth and called the government to place an ombudsperson for children at provincial level.

The event was attended by well-known women and human rights activists and women parliamentarians including Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Attiya Inyatullah, Bushra Gohar, Suriya Ameeruddin, Rubina Qaimkhani and Nuzhat Sadiq.