ISLAMABAD: Almost 79 per cent rural women are engaged in agriculture but have a share of only 20.8 per cent of the total income earned in Pakistan. In contrast, 60 per cent rural men get the remaining 79 per cent.

This was revealed at an annual conference held in connection with the Rural Women Day at Lok Virsa on Thursday in which over 1,200 women from 80 districts all over the country participated.

Participants also gave their recommendations stating that women should have at least 33 per cent representation at all levels especially in the upcoming local bodies elections.

They said land should be allotted to landless women farmers, rural women should be provided access to micro-credit facilities, and financial assistance should be provided to acid crime victims.

Furthermore, they demanded the implementation of pro-women laws including the anti-sexual harassment laws, Women’s Protection Act, acid crime prevention and Anti-Women Practices Prohibition Act in rural areas.

Participants further demanded recognition of rural women as farmers in government policy and said rural women farmers’ unions should be registered.

Implementation of right to education as per Article 25A of the Constitution, particularly for girls belonging to rural workers, should also be ensured, they said. Security for polio workers and lady health workers should be ensured and women should be included in peace discourse, they said.

Furthermore, they demanded more women police stations.

Member National Assembly Fahmida Mirza, who belongs to the Pakistan People’s Party, said women were empowered during the tenure of the PPP-led coalition government.

“Women’s Parliamentary Caucus was established on my proposal and a record numbers of bills for the protection of women were passed by the former government,” she said.

Ambassador of Brazil Alfredo Leoni said women can only be empowered through education as education gave awareness of their rights.

“Article 25-A of the constitution guarantees every child aged between 5 and 16 shall be educated,” he said.

At the occasion of the two-day conference, 30 stalls were also established at Lok Virsa where handicrafts made by women were placed. Bushra Naz, a stall holder from Vehari (Punjab), said she made handicrafts and sold them in the market.

“I was encouraged by the women working for a non government organisation to go to Islamabad and establish a stall. I am earning four to five times more compared to Vehari,” she said.

Munir Ahmed, a citizen, said his children enjoyed the songs, jokes and performances by artists at the conference.

Samina Nazir, the executive director of Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (which organised the conference), said the organisation had been working for the rights of women.

“Women play an important role in the development of the country. They should be involved in political dialogue and even in the dialogue with Taliban because they are also stakeholders,” she said.

“Malala Yousafzai has become a role model for girls in rural areas and they have been encouraged to receive education. There are pro-women laws in the country but they are not being implemented,” Ms Nazir said.

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