Ban Ki-moon meets with women parliamentarians in Pakistan
Speaking at an event on Pakistan’s Independence Day, 14 August, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, applauded the efforts of Pakistan’s women parliamentarians in ensuring “that women play a meaningful role at all levels of decision-making, especially in building peace and stability in the country.”
UN Women, in collaboration with the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, the National Commission on the Status of Women and UNDP, hosted the interaction between the Secretary-General and women parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, as well as various generations of law-makers. About 70 people participated, including many respected women human rights defenders and activists.
The recent national elections (11 May, 2013) are evidence of the political ground that women are gaining in the country. A high number of women stood for elections – more than 150 women ran for National Assembly seats and 313 for Provincial Assembly seats – and according to the Election Commission of Pakistan, today 67 women hold seats in the National Assembly and 139 hold seats in provincial assemblies. Prior to the elections, UN Women worked closely with the Elections Commission to ensure that women voters were registered, informed and motivated to vote.
Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Chair of the National Commission on the Status of Women, opened the event by emphasizing the symbiotic relationship between the women’s movement and women in legislatures. She highlighted their technical and moral support as well as engagement with the cross-party Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. She paid tribute to the vanguard role that women parliamentarians have played in steering sensitive legislation in the previous assembly, such as: the Anti-Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, Acid Crime Act, Anti-Women Traditional Practices Act, the Reproductive Healthcare and Rights Act, and the NCSW Act whereby the Commission, constituted in 2000, was strengthened and made financially and administratively autonomous.
Dr. Nafisa Shah, Member of the National Assembly from the Pakistan People’s Party, stressed in her remarks that women have been the prime victims of terrorism and the majority are denied basic health and education. “We have to ensure that women’s rights are not compromised at all,” she added.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his strong concern and condemnation of armed UAV (Unpiloted Aerial Vehicle) strikes on civilians, including women and children, and said the use of drones had to be guided by international law including international humanitarian law.
He highlighted that empowering women and girls is a high priority around the world and that he has nearly doubled the number of women in the most senior UN positions. Commending the progress by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in promoting cross-party collaboration to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, the Secretary-General called for more women in Cabinet and in Parliament and said that he hoped to see at least 30 per cent representation for women in the National Assembly.