KARACHI, May 16: Speakers at the launch of a project have said that only a close coordination between civil society organisations and government departments, including police and Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, can ensure protection to women against harassment and distress in urban and rural areas of Sindh.

The ceremony was organised on Thursday by the women development department to initiate a project for restoring and strengthening the existing Shaheed Benazir Bhutto women centres and women complaint centres in Karachi, Hyderabad, Benazirabad and other places.

“The purpose of this Rs6.9 million project is to create enabling environment and establish a system whereby survivors of gender-based violence can receive efficient and timely information and protection and care,” said secretary of the department Seema Najeeb and added that the project was being funded and supported by the USAID, Asia Foundation and Aurat Foundation.

She said that the success of any human and women rights and development institution mainly depended on continued flow of funds, availability of relevant infrastructure, trained staffs and monitoring.

She said that the women development department would not only revamp the women crisis centres, but would also ensure their efficient performance with a close coordination with relevant government departments, police and non-governmental and civil society organisations.

Speaking as the chief guest, caretaker Minister for Sindh Women Development and Human Rights Anis Haroon said that the country had many examples of establishing policies and institutions related to women rights, but as a human rights activist and civil society organiser she felt that things failed to give significant results due to ineffective work and follow-ups.

She said that funds and grants were allocated repeatedly, but it was the little interest on the part of the quarters concerned that institutions remained powerless, poorly equipped and without any capacity to deliver as per aspirations and needs of the masses.

Resident director of Aurat Foundation Mehnaz Rehman said that once the centres in question were reactivated, they would help reduce gender biases and violence against women.

Sindh Ombudsman for Protection of Women Against Harassment at Work Place retired Justice Pir Ali Shah said that harassment was one of the most common issues faced by women.

The additional secretary of the women development department, Inayat Akhter Bhurgri, said the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto women centres in Karachi, Benazirabad, Hyderabad and Jacobabad were established by the ministry of women development, Islamabad, while women complaint cells were established by the Sindh women development department in 2007-2008 in Karachi, Benazirabad, Hyderabad, Larkana and Sukkur.

The activities under the project included capacity building of staff, exposure visits to Lahore to a private shelter home, provision of legal counselling to survivors, improving the existing set-up of the crisis centres, creation of women and child friendly spaces, establishment of helpline in five women complaint centres of the women development department and publicity and awareness campaigns, the official added.

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