Minimum age for marriage of girls should be 18 years

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PODA conference concludes at Lok Virsa

DNA

ISLAMABAD, Observing International Rural Women’s Day (Saturday) the rural women from 123 districts present the 15th Annual Rural Women Conference by PODA-Pakistan here at Lok Virsa demanded to set minimum age for marriage for girls 18 years. They said that this age limit should be for all beyond race, ethnicity and creed.

The Three-Day Annual Rural Women Conference organized by PODA-Pakistan and supported for European Union Delegation to Pakistan, Election Commission of Pakistan, National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), GIZ and National Endowment for Democracy concluded today (Saturday) on passing a unanimously agreed resolutions highlighting rural women’s issues at the grassroots level to ensure their constitutional rights. PODA-Pakistan has been organizing the Annual Rural Women Conference since 2008 in Islamabad.

Urging the legislators, policy makers and parliamentarians to main the primary principle of gender equality enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan to uphold women’s political, social and economic rights, the gathering passed a set of resolutions unanimously. The resolution 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.

The conference participants of 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 includes all segments of the society from person-with-disabilities, transgender persons, minorities, different ethnicities and indigenous communities to allocate resources for their development, while at the same time recognizing their contributions in the national development.  The conference participants reiterated their demand to recognize 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, present on the occasion, Thomas Seiler, Deputy Head said this conference is 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 it at union level with their utmost resilience. He said that European Union Delegation to Pakistan has 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 they need to be on the frontline of relief plans ensuring their needs are treated on priority,” Thomas Seiler said.

Thomas Seiler also termed the conference an effective drive in connecting women’s demands raised from this platform with the steps taken and efforts initiated by the state institutions of ECP and NADRA for ensuring women’s equal participation in political processes.

Lauding the efforts of PODA, Farkhanda Naz, Provincial Ombudsperson Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace urged to extend harassment act to protect women working in informal sector. Earlier President, PODA Sameena Nazir presented an over view of the previous annual rural women conferences.

Nuzhat Shirin, Chairperson Sindh Commission on the Status of Women also spoke on the occasion terming conference a unique place for nurturing “a great sense of sisterhood” among women which was in itself a great accomplishment to celebrate.

Deputy Head of EUD to Pakistan, Thomas Seiler, awarded partner organizations and rural women for their contributions taking forward the conference’s agenda into their districts across Pakistan

The solidarity partners who received awards were: Nuzhat Shirin Chairperson Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, Rukhshanda Naz KP Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment at Workplace, Shaheen Farooqi, Bhera Press Club, Zarina Salamat, member PODA board, eminent poet, Kishwar Naheed. Rural Women Leaders who were awarded included: Aqsa Noor, Mirpur, AJK, Shahida Irshad, Quetta,  Balochistan, Shazia Fida Gilgit, GB, Rukhsana Jahengir, Swat KPK, Mehwish Majeed, Layyah, Punjab and Azra Memon, Dadu, Sindh.

Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women, Nilofer Bakhtiar, Reema Aftab, DG Inclusive Registration, NADRA, Moazzma Yousaf, Director Inclusive Registration and Zahid ur Rehman Assistant Director NADRA were also among the award recipients for their contributions to uplift the cause of rural women.