South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The News on Oct. 23 ::

The Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights plans to set up a 24-hour helpline for women in distress which would be functional within a month.

“With this facility, women would be able to register their complaints and get information for legal assistance to solve their problems at their door steps,” said Secretary Law, Justice and Human Rights, Barrister Zaffar Ullah Khan while speaking at the launching ceremony of a report by Plan Pakistan titled ‘Pathways to Power: Creating Sustainable Change for Adolescent Girls’ on Wednesday.

The event was organised to mark the significance of third annual International Day of the Girl Child on October 22, 2014. The event was held in reference to International Day of the Girl, which is celebrated every year on October 11th, to emphasise the barriers girls face around the world. The day is the highlight of Plan International’s ‘Because I am a Girl campaign’, which aims to reach four million girls directly — improving their lives with access to school, skills, livelihoods and protection.

The report focuses on the structural barriers that block girls’ and young women pathways to power. According to the report, visible and invisible forms of power over girls are reproduced and deepened through households, communities, the market economy and the state. Only by focusing on changing and challenging these realities of power can girls go forward and escape barriers of discrimination, violence and sexual harassment. The main theme of the report is the importance of collective power, i.e. bringing men and women to challenge the status quo together to change girls’ futures.

The report mentions that in most of the countries, women and girls continue to do the majority of unpaid work in homes. They are confined by the homes and define themselves by their role within it, as their families and communities define them. They may fail to learn the social skills, make the contacts and built the confidence to take them into a more public life and enhance their chances of better-paid work. At homes, everybody has power over them, which in turn limit the power they have within themselves. It says that there are many countries where in theory, there is legislation which should uphold their rights, but in practice there are embedded cultural, social and religious rules and behaviours which can conspire to prevent change.

Child marriages, despite being illegal in many countries where it is practiced, the report says is a prime example. It reveals that fourteen million girls under the age of 18, the official age when a child becomes an adult under UN Convention on the Rights of Child, are married each year. Child marriages, often to an older man, not only deprive a girl of her childhood and often of her education but is the source of countless rights violations of girls, particularly during adolescent. Becoming pregnant and giving birth before her body is fully mature is a leading cause of death of girls aged 15 to 19. Speaking on the occasion, Adviser to Prime Minister Khawaja Zaheer Ahmed said literacy is the first step while education is second step for development and bring change in society.

He agreed that poverty is the key of all evils and women caught in its vicious circle are facing double burden but said, the encouraging factor is women are not started fighting for their rights and a major example in this regard is Malala Yousafzai who is a simple of courage and struggle for the whole nation.

Minister of State for Education and Professional Training and Interior Muhammad Bligh-Ur-Rehman said there are two main hurdles to achieve targets set for education sectors i.e. one is access to education and the other one is quality of education.

He said gender disparity is considered to be a main issue in our society but the fact is now girl’s education is improving in the country and the basic fear in minds of parents while sending their children is that they are not accessible or situated within nearby community.

High Commissioner of Canada to Pakistan Greg Giokas, also spoke on the occasion and said that Canada was the first country moving a resolution at the UN for a special day for girl child to highlight the issues pertaining to the girl child.