A policy dialogue on ‘Free from Fear: Women’s Mobility and Economic Empowerment’ was held at the Serena hotel as part of Oxfam’s international 16 days of activism campaign against gender-based violence.
The campaign is focused on raising awareness about gender-based violence on local, national, and international levels. The 16 day campaign started from November 25th, the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women and is to last till December 10th, Human Rights day.
The theme for this year proposes the idea of a world where women can participate in social, political, economic and public spheres free from fear of harassment and violence.
The conference saw to the attendance of many notable women and religious leaders including Secretary to the Council of Islamic Ideology Dr. Hafiz Iqram-ul-Haq, MNA Romina Khurshid Alam, Senator Sana Jamali, Chairperson, Gender Studies, University of the Punjab Dr. Ra’ana Malik, and Chairperson, BISP Dr. Sania Nishtar. At the event, the speakers discussed the roles of religion, youth and violence against women and girls, and shared opportunities, challenges and recommendations for ensuring Pakistani women’s safe mobility and economic empowerment.
Speaking on violence against women and girls in public spaces, Balochistan Awami Party Senator Sana Jamali said, “My father and I are a force against the injustices women face in our province and we are making efforts to ensure women are empowered.”
Regarding the global campaign, Oxfam Pakistan’s Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash said, “Oxfam wants to focus on profiles of influential women who are working in their communities to raise awareness of the different forms of gender violence related to access of resources and opportunities. Public space violence and harassment restricts women’s mobility and consequently their access to educational and economic opportunities, without which they are unable to participate in decision-making at all levels. Unless we ensure safe public transport and violence and harassment free public spaces, our women will remain economically disempowered.”
Furthermore, Oxfam Pakistan Program Quality and Funding Director Uzma Aftab speaking about the theme of the dialogue said, “Our ‘Free from Fear’ theme underscores the need to recognize that fear is not a normal state of existence and that women and girls deserve access and enjoyment of their human rights without fear and with a system that holds perpetrators accountable,”
At the event, Ra’ana Malik Chairperson Gender Studies Department University of the Punjab shared statistics from her study to highlight the seriousness of the issue and reminded the audience that 39% of women in a city like Lahore feel unsafe walking alone at night.
She emphasized the need to address women’s mobility from homes to public spaces and make their safety a priority.
Giving a religious perspective, Secretary to the Council of Islamic Ideology Ikram-ul-Haq said “At the time of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), women were empowered, they were involved in business and farming, and ran cottage industries and the Prophet (P.B.U.H) encouraged this.”
Reference links: propakistani.pk