ISLAMABAD: The three-day annual conference by the Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (Poda) concluded on Saturday with a demand to pull rural women out of growing poverty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The speakers also called upon government to provide opportunities to enhance their technical skills to connect with markets and with their inclusion at all levels of decision making by increasing their political participation.
With an increase in cases of child marriages due to the lockdown, the government was also urged to take the measures necessary to implement legislation to stop child marriages and set up mechanisms to monitor the situation at the grassroots level.
Through a conference resolution, the participants also demanded equal representation of women in upcoming local government elections.
The 13th annual conference was organised by Poda in connection with International Rural Women Day, which is marked on Oct 15. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Rural Women’s Leadership in Climate Change Adaptation, Covid-19 Response, Governance and Disaster Preparedness’.
European Union Ambassador Androulla Kaminara said at the conference that rural women need to adapt new viable and innovative techniques for economic sustainability. She said participants should make networks and consortiums in order to obtain funding in the future.
Discussing an underway project, Ambassador Kaminara said that the EU has allocated €6.6 million for the capacity building of Pakistani civil society organisations. The conference participants were told to explore the EU’s online platforms for more information.
Poda President Sameena Nazir said all the stakeholders need to alleviate women from poverty and economic independence is a must for this, as it would ensure their rights and responsibilities in society.
The gathering approved a list of resolutions for the next year. They demanded that rural women be trained in disaster preparedness to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of disasters and equip them with skills to work on community development during rescue, emergency relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
They said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the livelihoods of rural women and the government must increase the coverage of the Covid-19 relief package so rural women can mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.
The government should also take effective measures to enrol children who dropped out of school and provide online educational programmes at all levels, while donor agencies should support these groups with organisational sustainability grants.
They also said that the Election Commission of Pakistan and civil society should begin campaigns to tackle the lack of awareness about upcoming local government elections and educate communities on the key features of the new local government system.
A delegation of lady health workers also raised their demands to regularise their services from the conference platform.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020