16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence


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As part of 16 Days of Activism to end Gender Based Violence against Women and Girls, PODA, organized a day-long training to teach rural women how to help those who face violence in Pakistani society. “ we need to make an honest effort to understand how violence affects women’s mind and body” adding that one way of making women strong is to teach boys and girls from an early age to reject violence. The consultation brought together 25 rural women from Chakwal, Jehlum, Mianwali, Rawalpindi and rural Islamabad to learn about various tools and advocacy methods that can be used to reduce violence against women and girls in Pakistani society. The training participants learnt about the new laws against sexual harassment, acid crimes, exchange marriages and inheritance rights that women can use to take legal actions in case they face violence. One woman participant from Barakahu said “it is important for us to learn about our legal rights as well as income generation skills because if we cannot protect ourselves from violence then we will always be vulnerable”. The day-long consultation also provided useful information to the training participants about protecting themselves while working as human rights defenders for other women and girls. PODA staff explained the history of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the UN special Rapporteure who report to the UN Human Rights Council annually. Pakistani human rights leader Ms. Hina Jillani was the first woman to head this important post for the UN. PODA staff also informed the participants about the 16 Days Campaign to End Gender Based Violence and this year’s theme “ Safety of women at home and at workplace”. The rural women participants made a list of things that women and girls can do to be safe at home and at work place. The rural women participants highlighted the need to educate factory owners in rural areas to provide separate bathroom for women workers. PODA staff encouraged the women to use the new laws passed in Pakistan that provide protection to women and girls. A woman participant from Mianwali said Malala’s courage has inspired them to work more diligently. “If we were afraid earlier, we are not any more”, she added. Another participant demanded that Pakistani parliament should urgently pass a law to criminalize domestic violence in Pakistan to protect women from violence at home. One woman shared that in rural areas many women face brutal violence at the hands of their husband or in-laws but due to lack of a law the police does not consider it a crime and if a villager woman goes to report domestic violence the police says it is their private matter that should be resolved within the family therefore strong legislation is required. The participants were keen to learn about defenders declaration. PODA staff explained that the United Nations’  “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, commonly referred to as ” The Declaration on human rights defenders” obligates all governments to ensure the safety of human rights defenders including women defenders journalists, lawyers, NGO workers, women’s rights leaders, children rights workers, teachers and any other defender who promotes universal human rights standards defined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The government of Pakistan is also obliged to protect Pakistani human rights activities including women who defend the rights of other women and girls. The participants discussed Article 1 of the Defenders Declaration says “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”  The 2010 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders that was presented to the UN General Assembly highlights that “Women Human Rights Defenders are more at risk of suffering certain forms of violence and other violations, prejudice, exclusion, and repudiation than their male counterparts.” More sessions will be organized with the women in their village based training centers in coming months. The consultation organized by PODA with the support of the Fund for Global Human Rights and The Asia Foundation Pakistan ended with a plan of action prepared by rural women activists on how to share the information with other women and how to mobilize their communities, local opinion makers, media and other stakeholders to work for ending violence against women and girls. PODA will assist the women to amplify this learning in more villages as part of its work to build the capacity of rural women leaders. For more information contact womenrights@poda.org.pk or info@poda.org.pk

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