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Women commission without head since May

Updated August 15, 2013

PESHAWAR, Aug 14: Provincial Commission on the Status of Women is without a chairperson since May after its first head completed her tenure, full of nerve-testing situations and deliberations on legislation for women.

“The first year was spent in setting up office and other administrative arrangements. The start was slow but the last two years were quite busy,” said Zubaida Khatoon, who worked for a long time with UN organisations before being appointed as first chairperson of the first ever Provincial Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW).

PCSW is a recommendatory body with around 10 to 15 honorary members from different walks of life and chaired by a full-time chairperson.

“In the beginning thin attendance of the members and procedural and administrative delays were discouraging,” said Ms Khatoon while sharing experience of three-year term as head of the commission. Later, things picked up, she added.PCSW was set up by the previous Awami National Party-led provincial government in 2010. It was established under Commission on the Status of Women ACT 2009. So far Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the only province to have a commission meant to review women- related laws and recommend legislation to protect their rights.

Dr Mehr Taj Roghani, special assistant of chief minister on social welfare and women affairs, when contacted, said that three names were sent to the chief minister and soon a chairperson of PCSW would be appointed.

Dr Roghani , who has also remained a member of National Commission on the Status of Women, denied that political affiliation or leanings would be considered in appointment of PCSW chairperson.

However, she could not disclose the name of favourite candidate for the post but said that the chairperson would be a dedicated person with good communication skills.

A former member of PCSW said that the commission went through tough times when it actively got involved to seek justice for a rape victim. The chairperson also appeared in the court in the case. Despite the fact that she was grilled in the court, the commission with the help of civil society provided support to the victim when she gave birth to a child, she added.

“It was really nerve-testing case,” she said. The commission has compiled a complete report of the case.

Despite shortage of staff and administrative delays, the PCSW chairperson with the help of only one professional staffer and a small support staff managed to hold several meetings with the civil society on various issues.

The PCSW reviewed and gave its feedback to legislators on different bills or drafts including Acid and Burn Control Legislation, Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, Child Marriage Restrain Act, Protection of Women's Ownership Rights, Home Based Workers Bill, NCSW's petition against jirga and legislation to curtail the custom of ghag.

It also supported women legislators to table resolutions on different issues related to women like resolution No. 578 (on women rights) tabled by MPA Noor Sahar, resolution No. 474 (on anti-women customary practice of valvar) presented by MPA Munawar Sultana, resolution No. 270 (on bride money) and the issue of women trafficking tabled by Zarqa Bibi.

Ms Khatoon said that there was need for an amendment in the Act to make PCSW financially and administratively autonomous to strengthen it. She also suggested that it should not be politicised.