Gender Equity Program of Aurat Foundation Celebrates 100 Years of International Women’s Day; Launch of NATIONAL ADVISORY FORUM of GEP

A USAID funded, Gender Equity Program of Aurat Foundation celebrated 100 years of International Women’s Day with the inaugural meeting of National Advisory Forum and launch of a documentary “Main Safar Main Hoon”.  Both the event were organized today i.e. March 26, 2011, at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad.  Dr Nafeesa Shah, Secretary General of Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, was the chief guest of the event. Dr. Marilyn Wyatt, the wife of U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter; Ms Saadia Danish, Advisor to Chief Minister, Gilgit Baltistan; Ms Ghazala Gola, Provincial Minister Baluchistan; Ms Sitara Ayaz, Provincial Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Ms Tauqeer Fatimah Bhutto, Provincial Minister Sindh; Mr Kamran Michael, Provincial Minister Punjab and Ms Anis Haroon, Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) were the distinguished guests at the event.

Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat Foundation, welcomed and briefed the participants on the Gender Equity Program and introduced the National Advisory Forum (NAF) and its members. He said that the main role of NAF is to provide broad policy guidelines to GEP, align GEP with government’s gender commitment, including international commitments, and provide guidelines for on-going cooperation with USAID. He further said that they pledged to perceive the world through the purple lens - the women rights colour in order to reduce gender disparity in this society. Ms Simi Kamal, Chief of Party, Gender Equity Program stated that NAF is an important national forum for consultation and brainstorming broader gender equity/equality strategies and it can provide direction to GEP, as well as to the government and other gender entities in the country.
The Forum would be headed by Dr Fehmida Mirza as Chairperson.  Other NAF members include Mr Ehsan Sadiq, AIG, Islamabad Police, Dr Nafeesa Shah, Secretary General of Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Ms Yasmeen Rehman, member National Assembly, Ms Saadia Danish, Advisor to Chief Minister, Gilgit Baltistan,  Ms Ghazala Gola, Provincial Minister Baluchistan,Ms Sitara Ayaz, Provincial Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,   Tauqeer Fatimah Bhutto, Provincial Minister Sindh, Mr Kamran Michael, Provincial Minister Punjab, Samina Pirzada, renown TV artist and women’s right activist, Dr Alya Khan, Professor Department of Economics, QAU, and Ms Anis Haroon, Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW).  Ms Samina Khalid Ghurki, Federal Minister Women’s Development and Shahnaz Wazir Ali, member National Assembly although accepted to be on the NAF, but due to personal engagement could not attend the event.

Ms Saadia Danish, Advisor to Chief Minister, Gilgit-Baltistan, in her address highlighted the problems of women in Galigit Baltistan.  She said that rigid elements of GB oppose co-education, so it is necessary that government shall setup colleges and university for women in GB; separate women’s bank and police station be established; women shall be given 33% quota in government jobs, and number of lady health workers shall be increased.  

Talking about the plight of women in Sindh, Ms Tauqeer Fatima Bhuttu, Provincial Minister for Women’s Development, Sindh, said that women in rural areas are so much caught in making bread and butter for their family that are unaware of their basic rights.  Through Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), the government is trying hard for financial uplift of women so that they can join the mainstream of political, social and economic empowerment.  Ms Sitara Imtiaz, Provincial Minister, Khyber Bakhtunkhaw, in her address, said that people of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw are in a state of war, which is affecting women’s very basic human righs.  She briefed the participants about the recent steps taken by the government of KP like women’s crisis centre, and Bacha Khan Vocational Training Centre.  It was, however, unfortunate that women trained in these training centres still couldn’t find market for their products.

Dr. Marilyn Wyatt, wife of U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told the forum that the United States has made a long-term commitment to improving the lives of women in Pakistan and that all U.S. development strategies reflect the importance of women’s core roles in raising families, providing health care, running businesses, providing education and feeding children. “We consult women as we design our programs and we hold our programs accountable in terms of the impact they have on the lives of women and girls,” Dr. Wyatt said. “We’re using our resources everywhere to create educational and professional opportunities for women – especially hard-working, ordinary women who are the bedrock of our societies.”

Ms Nafisa Shah, Secretary General Women’s Parliamentary  Caucus (WPC), addressing the participants expressed hope that Gender Equity Programme of Aura Foundation would deliver effectively the  much needed financial support for women’s rights. She categorically mentiones the struggle of women leaders like Qurat-ul-Ain Bakhtiari from Balochistan, Mariam Bibi from KP, Mukhtaran Mai from Punjab and Sughra Solangi from Sindh as icons of women’s struggle.  She mentioned Sindh Government’s policy for acknowledging women’s right to land entitlement.  She wished and hoped the policy would also be carried out in other provinces.  She stressed that National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) need to  more stronger and effective women to influence women’s rights agenda, and that Women Parliamentary Caucus is also working on it.  She expressed hope that the  joint efforts of government and civil society organization would surely result in a gender sensitive and just society in Pakistan.
Mr Kamran Michale, Minister for Women’s Development, Punjab, appreciated Aurat Foundation for its composed struggle for women’s empowerment.  Comprehensive Awareness Campaign on Sexual Harassment workplace in remote districts of Punjab like Dera Ghazi Khan.  He stressed the need for effective collaboration between the government and NGOs to deliver women their basic rights. Mr Taimoor Khan, Director General, Ministry of Women’s Development, while representing Ms Samina Khalid Ghurki, Minister for Women’s Development, shared with participants that Aurat Foundation is playing a significant role in smooth running of Benazair Bhuttu Crisis Centres by providing financial supports.

A documentary “Main Safar Main Hoon” was also screened during the event. The documentary focused on the 100 year journey of women all over the world, particularly highlighting the achievements and sacrifices of Pakistani women, starting from 1911 till 2011. The objective of the documentary was to portray a positive image of Pakistani women and highlight their achievements in different fields of life and carries a very motivating message, that is, women can excel at anything they do provided they are determined, committed and strong.
Aurat Publications and Information Services (AF) is implementing a five year, USAID supported Gender Equity Program (GEP) in collaboration with The Asia Foundation. The Gender Equity Program aims at closing the gender gap in Pakistan by proactively supporting the development of women and seeks to facilitate behavioral change in society by enabling women to access information, resources and institutions, and improve societal attitudes towards women's rights issues.  Aurat Foundation has been working in Pakistan for the past 25 years and is acting as a catalyzing critical group in society that aims at influencing policy, legislation and programs for women’s greater economic and political power in the society.


Nafisa Shah speaking at the event as Chief Guest; on stage (L-R), Simi Kamal, Sitara Ayaz, Tauqeer Fatimah Bhutto, and Dr Marilyn Wyatt.


Dr Marilyn Wyatt speaking at the event.

  Anis Haroon giving her remarks; on stage (L-R), Sitara Ayaz, Tauqeer Fatimah Bhutto, and Dr Marilyn Wyatt..   Asma Shirazi, journalist and TV anchor, Ms Sitara Ayaz, Almas Ibrahi, athlete, and Vaneza Ahmed, entrepreneur were invited in the 100th celebration as success stories of women’s empowerment  
Media Coverage
  National advisory forum launched to bridge gender gap  
Aurat Fondation launches National advisory forum
  Govt initiates programmes on women's empowerment   Guideliness on gender issues offered  
  Chairperson NCHD, Dr Nafisa Shah speaking at a programme organised by USAID at a local hotel.   NGO screems documentary on women struggle  
  Empowerment of women stressed in Pakistan   Speakers call for removing gender disparity  
  Islamabad, Chair person NCHD Nfisa Shah addressing the launching of National Advisory Forum organised by USAID at local hotel.   PPP leader underscores need for removein 'political barriers'  
  Pushing on to reduce the gender gap      



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