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PESHAWAR, Feb 12: Women rights activists on Tuesday demanded strict security for human rights defenders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The demand was made during a function held to pay tribute to campaigners for women rights in connection with National Women Day.

The programme was jointly organised by ActionAid, Blue Veins and Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network to honour women, who had raised their voice for human rights.

Women politicians, journalists and social activists were also awarded for their role in defending human rights.

Participants, who showed up from different parts of the province and Fata, expressed their resolve to continue efforts for women rights in own fields and capacity despite risks.

Idrees Kamal, who heads Civil Society Network, said in times when human rights were violated, there were brave women, who raised voice against it despite risks, and they needed to be appreciated for it.

He said National Women Day was celebrated all over the country on Feb 12 to remember the struggle of Women Action Forum during Zia military regime in early 80s.

Maryam Bibi, who has been running Khwendo Kore for 20 years, said women and men should jointly work for protection of human rights. She said instead of confronting men, women should convince them so that both could continue joint efforts for peace and justice in society.

Zainab Mehsud, a woman activist from tribal areas, said women of tribal areas hardly get any attention because they lacked awareness of how to highlight their problems for redressal by the relevant authorities.

She said she had continued to gather women to bring forth problems of tribal women.

Shazia Tehmas, an MPA from Pakistan People’s Party, talked about the struggle she had made to pass bills in the provincial assembly to protect women from trafficking and domestic violence.

She said she might not have been successful in some respects but she believed in continuous struggle. Rafaqat, an elderly social activist from Mardan and former councilor, spoke about ‘Khanism’ and said the rich were the main hurdle to women’s emancipation in rural areas of tribal region.

She said women, who lacked awareness of their rights, were equally to be blamed. Ms Rafaqat said in a culture where men were not ready to listen about women rights, it was a hard task to convince women to step out and speak about their rights. She, however, said nothing could stop women but themselves alone from getting their basic rights as human being.

Provincial social welfare and women development minister Sitara Ayaz told participants that women were the worst affected in the province and tribal areas due to terrorism and poverty.

She, however, praised women activists for promoting women rights and raised voice against violations despite threats.

At the end of the programme, a charter of demands was presented.

The demands included security for human rights defenders, restriction for government officials and public figures against stigmatising work of women rights activists, and conducive environment for campaigners for human rights.

The participants later paid tribute to human rights activists, who were silenced during their mission, by observing one-minute silence.