Qureshi sure of achieving women rights goals

-Reaffirms Pakistan’s commitment to protect, promote women rights
-Recalls pledges made at Beijing Platform
– Says Pakistan stands committed to women empowerment

By Asghar Ali Mubarak

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Thursday while reiterating Pakistan’s firm commitment to protect and promote women rights, urged the international community to put in more efforts to achieve the goals set under Beijing Platform for Action on women rights and freedom.
“While progress is being made, we are off pace to fully achieve our objectives. Twenty-five years on, many commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action await realization,” the foreign minister said addressing virtually at High Level Meeting on the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session.
President of 75th UNGA Session Volkan Bozkir, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka attended the session. The foreign minister said the women’s rights movement had made tremendous strides in the last century as a number of significant instruments and conventions had been adopted.
However, he said a lot more was desired worldwide in achieving gender equality.
“Women’s role in the social, economic and political spheres is still restricted. Women, on average, earn less than men. Violence against them is endemic. In conflict situations, especially in territories under foreign occupation, they are targeted with impunity, and rape and sexual violence is used as an instrument of subjugation. Disasters affect them disproportionally,” he remarked.
He said the COVID-19 crisis had shown how these pre-existing structural inequalities exacerbate problems for women.
The foreign minister said Pakistan’s commitment to women empowerment was derived from religion, cultural ethos, vision of our founders, and the ideals espoused in its constitution.
He said since the UN’s beginning, Pakistan had worked for women’s rights since the very beginning of the UN.
During the drafting of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pakistan’s delegate Baigum Shaista Ikramullah played an active role in the inclusion of article 16.
In Beijing, the first women Prime Minister from the Muslim world, Benzair Bhutto, rallied women from developing countries and gave voice to their lived experiences.
“In Pakistan, we are and endeavoring to create a welfare Islamic state, based on the model of “Riyasat e Madinah”, with due protection and promotion of the rights of women. Our national development paradigm is gender sensitive. The flagship Ehsaas (or compassion) Programme for poverty alleviation is designed to reduce feminization of poverty,” he said.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said through legislative initiatives, Pakistan was continuously addressing the issues of violence against women, domestic abuse, harassment, social and property rights protection.
The country’s National Action Plan on Human Rights has ‘Protection of Women’ as one of its key priority areas. Women Protection Centres and a 24-hour Helpline (1099) have been established to provide free legal advice, redressal and referral mechanism.
He told the participants that the number of women at key leadership role had steadily risen in Pakistan. In recent years, the country had a female prime minister, governor of the State Bank, speaker of the National Assembly and many women as ministers, ambassadors, judges and high-ranking civil servants.
He said even Pakistani women were flying fighter jets, serving in UN Peacekeeping Operations with one of them even recently risen to the rank of a three-star general in the military.
The foreign minister called for learning from each other’s experiences in the journey for women empowerment. Beijing Platform for Action offered the avenue to achieve that and must be supported by all.
“In Pakistan, we know that our women hold up half of the sky. We will continue to empower women and encourage them shatter all glass ceilings that hindered their progress in the past,” he resolved.