Coverage: UN Women Executive Director takes #HearMeToo to Pakistan
UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, started her first official visit to Pakistan today, as part of her travels during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The visit aims to bolster the gender equality agenda in the country.
On the final day of the Executive Director’s mission in Pakistan, she met with the Women Parliamentary Caucus, where she stressed the importance of full, equal and effective participation and leadership for women at all levels of decision-making is the key to unlocking the transformative change in the societies and achieve sustainable development.
The Executive Director drew attention to UN Women’s existing tools and resources of such as iKnowPolitics, an international knowledge platform that fosters exchange, dialogue and knowledge creation for all who are engaged in promoting women’s political participation and the most recently launched flagship publication Gender Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Paciﬁc to be informed about the Sustainable Development Goals and the gender equality related indicators.
Member of National Assembly and WPC Secretary, Munaza Hassen raised some key challenges by women, among those are the low number of women MPs and parliamentary leaders can mean that women’s voices are not heard on an equal footing with men. In Pakistan’s lower house, women represented 25.2 per cent of the total 272 members; while in the Upper House, it remains low at 18.8 per cent.
Later in a meeting with Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, the Executive Director encouraged effective implementations of quota system for more women’s representation in the legislation for more gender-sensitive laws.
Minister of Human Rights welcomed the Executive Director’s initiative to strengthen its closer collaboration on developing a guidebook for women survivors of violence on how they can go for protections and services where their voices will be heard.
The Executive Director participated in an interactive dialogue on ending harassment of women with disabilities, joined by Minister of Human Rights, Shireen Mazari; Resident Coordinator, Neil Buhne; and Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative of UN Women.
“To create spaces for women is a shared and collective responsibility,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “In addition to making policies that favour women with disabilities, we also need to challenge social norms in our homes, schools, institutions, and spaces of work, to make lives more liveable for women.”
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, informed the audience that the ordinance to protect the rights of persons with disabilities was now going to be part of proper legislation after consent from Parliament, as the bill had been approved by cabinet in its recent meeting. The bill, she explained, includes clauses for the right to education, right to dignity, right to privacy and some other important points.
The final meeting of the Executive Director’s mission in Pakistan ended with an affirmation of commitment and support of the Honourable Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Tehmina Janjua.
The reviews should include an assessment of current challenges that affect the implementation of the Platform for Action and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and its contribution towards the full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through a gender perspective. “Pakistan will collaborate and please do not hesitate to call upon Pakistan for any support,” said the Foreign Affairs Secretary.
During an interactive dialogue on ending harassment of women with disabilities, Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka joined by Minister of Human Rights, Dr. Shireen Mazari; Resident Coordinator, Neil Buhne, and Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative of UN Women; partners and media - heard the voices and learned about the resilience of Pakistani women with disabilities, who have stood up against the challenges of harassment and violence.
“Under the 16 days of activism, it is important to highlight the issues that affect women who live with disabilities”, said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “In addition to making policies that favour women with disabilities, we also need to challenge social norms in our homes, schools, institutions, and spaces of work, to make lives more liveable for women.”
The second day of Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka’s visit to Pakistan started with a dialogue with private sector on gender equality, and a panel discussion to understand how partnership with the private sector and social partners is important to advance gender equality in organizations.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed upon the corporate leaders to be more proactive towards embracing gender equality in their operations. “If we talk about addressing the issue of ending violence against women, or talking about sexual harassment at workplaces, private sector needs policies to address human rights issues and economic issues,” she stressed.
UN Women has been working with the Private sector companies in Pakistan since 2015. These companies are encouraged to include and increase the number of women in their workforce at each level. Because of UN Women’s efforts, more than 1,000 women have joined the organized sector in Punjab. Fifty-six companies have signed the UN Global Compact and UN Women’s ‘Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP)’ in Pakistan since its launch since April 2015.
Ending child marriage in Mithi, Tharparkar District
Making Mithi, the capital of one of Pakistan’s most impoverished districts, the first stop of her visit, Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called upon the entire community to end child marriage and pledge their commitment to improve the lives of girls and young women.
“A girl who is married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled. We know today that when a girl is married she misses out on her education. And if she misses out on her education, she is going to be poor. As parents, we do not want our children to be poorer than us. In every generation we want the next generation to be better and better and better,” said the Executive Director during the community dialogue with over 300 residents.
“I want to commend the women, the girls and the boys of Mithi for coming together and talking to each other like this; for raising your hand, standing in front, being united with your leaders," she added.
The meeting was also attended by government officials, media professionals and local leaders. Men from the community – heads of the families, religious and traditional leaders, senators, legislators, and male members of the press – pledged to say ‘no’ to child marriage.
Starting today, Mithi is set to be an example of a ‘zero child marriage’ village in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 sets the legal age for marriage at 16 for females and 18 for males. In April 2014, the provincial Sindh Assembly unanimously adopted the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, making marriage under the age of 18 (for men or women) a punishable offence. However, speaking at the event, Minister for Women Development for the Province of Sindh, Syeda Shehla Raza said that more public awareness and oversight by relevant authorities are needed to ensure adherence to the law.
Youth dialogue in SZABIST University on ending sexual harassment
The next stop for the Executive Director was SZABIST University, the country’s leading technological university, for a dialogue with youth. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka called upon the university administration to show zero tolerance to sexual harassment.
“One of the best practices of leaders is to show no tolerance, whether it is the administration of the university, of a company or of a political party, to sexual harassment. When leaders set the tone from the top, it really helps to generate a way of dealing with such issues,” she said.
In the wake of cases of sexual harassment on university campuses and realizing the need of academic institutions to be safe spaces for scholars, the Executive Director engaged with the faculty and students.
“The most important contribution of the #MeToo movement is to give voices to women, whose voices and pain have been invisible,” she added.
This year’s UN theme for the 16 Days of Activism is, Orange the World: #HearMeToo, to amplify the voices of survivors and activists.
“We need to join hands and exercise the power of solidarity to promote and coordinate efforts to advance the full realization of women’s rights, to tell them how valuable and precious they are; that they are to be treated with dignity and respect; that they should disregard anyone who demeans or devalues them,” said Ms. Nasreen Haque, Vice President of SZABIST Karachi Campus.