July 19 - 25, 2010

Dr Shama Khalid, Governor Gilgit-Baltistan has called upon the nation to focus on women education for their empowerment and economic wellbeing in the country.

She came to Karachi especially to attend the sixth women's leadership conference "Women's Empowerment" organised by Triple-E and Sindh Ministry of Women's Development last week.

Speaking as the chief guest, Dr Shama Khalid emphasised that education is the key to empowering women in the society which is also endorsed by Islam that calls for education among both men and women.

The Governor of Gilgit and Baltistan is the first female doctor of her area. She said that the government is establishing a women's university and a women's medical college in Gilgit-Baltistan.

She regretted that women were being subjected to violence even though Article 25 in the Constitution stipulated that all citizens were equal beings and that Pakistan had ratified a UN Convention against all forms of discrimination. She raised the issue of honor killings and domestic violence.

The keynote speaker at the conference was MNA Sherry Rehman, who regretted over what she said a superior judge for questioning the placement and basis on which women parliamentarians are selected. "I strongly express my condemnation over the judge's questioning. Women from not only our party but from all other parties became legislators on merit." She mentioned the name of Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Adviser to the Prime Minister, saying that she was purely selected on merit.

Sherry called upon the elite of the society to drive women towards empowerment and take responsibility of the issues. An educated woman is the most important asset of a society, she said.

While women in the rural areas are organising themselves, paving the way to empowerment, the urban luxury-seekers are not doing so. She said that the only way governments worked across the globe was through public pressure and urged the people to step up and raise a voice for women's rights.

"The civil society and the masses should work towards the issue of women's empowerment. The media is positively playing its part in highlighting women's issues. It is now time for the people, especially the elite to organise themselves and work for women's issues."

Speaking on the occasion Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto Sindh Minister for Women's Development said that women were now setting examples in skills and talents. "Today's woman is making a mark in all fields. We have women in the assemblies, in the media and now as governors." She said that there was a great struggle for women's empowerment. She paid tributes to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, calling her a beacon of women's empowerment.

Sharmila Farooqi while lauding the bill against sexual harassment of women at workplace called for the reintroduction of the Domestic Violence Bill in parliament.

Mentioning the government's projects for women, she said that this year around 600,000 women would be benefiting from the Shaheed Benazir Women Income Support Programme under which they would each be given Rs1, 000 every month. Meanwhile, Rs20 million have been allocated to provide free legal aid to women and juveniles.

She called for all programmes to be directed towards the empowerment of women so that they could be economically stable. She said that a programme would be initiated for the establishment of shelter home for women.

Elizabeth O Colton, Chief Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate-General, Karachi highlighted four points required for women's empowerment. According to her, people should have pride in universal womanhood, a woman should be educated, young woman should be encouraged not to take opportunities which they have for granted and finally, beliefs should be transmitted and passed in the struggle for empowerment.

Ghazala Gola, Balochistan Minister for Women's Development, highlighted the issues of women in her province. She said that since Balochistan was a strictly male-dominated society, women were discriminated against and not accorded their rights. "Low literacy, deficient healthcare, and poor infrastructure are the main problems. However, now women are rising up and changing the situation."

Anchorperson Naseem Zehra and Shafqat Sultana, President of First Women's Bank also spoke on the occasion.

Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan, Shama Khalid and MNA Sherry Rehman presented awards to women excelling in their respective fields. The recipients were Anne Patterson, US Ambassador to Pakistan, the staunchest advocate of the bill against women's harassment at the workplace, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, veteran film actress Zeba Ali, noted anchorperson Naseem Zehra, eminent journalist Khursheed Hyder, and the woman squash player, Maria Toor Pakay.