Women’s moot ends with demand for minimum marriage age for girls at 18

Published October 16, 2022
Women listen to speakers at the PODA conference on Saturday. — White Star
Women listen to speakers at the PODA conference on Saturday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Dances, music and celebrations marked the conclusion of the International Rural Women’s Day on Saturday.

Rural women from 123 districts were present at the 15th annual rural women conference at Lok Virsa, demanding to set minimum age for marriage of girls at 18 years. Participants argued that this age limit should be for all beyond race, ethnicity and creed.

The three-day women conference organised by Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) and supported by European Union Delegation to Pakistan, Election Commission of Pakistan, National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), GIZ and National Endowment for Democracy concluded by passing unanimously agreed resolutions.

The resolutions highlighted rural women’s issues at the grassroots level to ensure their constitutional rights.

Legislators, policymakers urged to maintain primary principle of gender equality enshrined in Constitution

Urging legislators, policymakers and parliamentarians to maintain the primary principle of gender equality enshrined in the Constitution to uphold women’s political, social and economic rights, the gathering passed a set of resolutions unanimously.

The resolutions focused mainly on the areas of health, education, women’s financial inclusion, climate change, access to basic social services, political participation and women’s constitutional and citizenship rights while highlighting the need to adhere and ensure the principle of equal representation of rural women at all levels, policy, planning and implementation.

A woman from Sindh performs a traditional dance at the conclusion of the 15th annual Rural Women Leadership conference organised by PODA in Islamabad on Saturday. — Photo by Tanveer Shazhad
A woman from Sindh performs a traditional dance at the conclusion of the 15th annual Rural Women Leadership conference organised by PODA in Islamabad on Saturday. — Photo by Tanveer Shazhad

The participants from four provinces and regions of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan urged the provincial governments to adopt policies based on the concept of gender-equality which included all segments of society from person with disabilities, transgender persons, minorities, different ethnicities and indigenous communities to allocate resources for their development while at the same time recognising their contributions in the national development.

The participants reiterated their demand to recognise rural women as farmers, so that equally to men they could be benefited from the government policies.

Reiterating European Union Delegation to Pakistan’s commitment for gender equality, Thomas Seiler, the deputy head, said the conference was a “platform from where you make your voices heard collectively to tackle problems and challenges”. He also recommended the participants to take back their action plan in the form of conference resolutions with them to work on with their utmost resilience.

He said European Union Delegation had been working closely with the government of Pakistan and with other donors in assessing the needs for rebuilding the flood-hit areas and supporting future recovery efforts.

“Women are among the most at risk in flood-affected areas. However, at the same time, they need to be on the frontline of relief plans ensuring their needs are treated on priority,” Mr Seiler said.

Lauding the efforts of PODA, Rukhshanda Naz, ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace, KP, urged for extending harassment act to protect women working in informal sector.

PODA President Sameena Nazir presented an overview of the previous annual rural women conferences.

Nuzhat Shirin, Chairperson Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, termed the conference a unique place for nurturing “a great sense of sisterhood” among women.

Thomas Seiler awarded partner organisations and rural women for their contributions in taking forward the conference’s agenda into their districts across Pakistan.

The solidarity partners who received awards were: Nuzhat Shirin, Rukhshanda Naz, Shaheen Farooqi, Bhera Press Club, Zarina Salamat, member PODA board and eminent poet Kishwar Naheed.

Rural women leaders who were awarded included: Aqsa Noor, Mirpur, AJK, Shahida Irshad, Quetta, Balochistan, Shazia Fida Gilgit, Rukhsana Jahengir, Swat, Mehwish Majeed, Layyah, Punjab and Azra Memon, Dadu, Sindh.

Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women Nilofer Bakhtiar, Reema Aftab, director general, Moazzma Yousaf, director and Zahidur Rehman, assistant director at Nadra Inclusive Registration were also among the award recipients.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2022

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