Rural Women’s Day celebrations observed

Khadijah Shah

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN: Featuring panel discussions, exhibition of foodstuffs made by rural women, youth theatre and folk music, the International Rural Women’s Day was celebrated with great enthusiasm for the first time here on Wednesday.

A large number of people belonging to civil society, international women organizations, government officials and NGOs working on the rights of women based in the rural areas took part in the activities
that got delayed because of rain.

The events were organized jointly by ActionAid, CIDA, Lok Virsa, Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (Poda) and Unifem.

The festivities began with the hoisting of a special flag by Hina Riasat that marked the start followed by a Lok Virsa display — ‘A day in the life of a rural women.’ Country Director of Unifem Alice Shackelford read out the United Nations World Rural Women’s Day message on the event.

Dressed up in traditional colourful clothes, representatives of rural women from across the country actively participated in the event. A unique feature of the event was the traditional food provided to
visitors that included ‘Karhi Pakora’ and ‘Jalaibi’. Women artisan could be seen at work at different stalls.

A report on the condition of rural women in Pakistan was also commenced on the occasion whereas poetry collection on the plight of such women by Aliya Mirza was also distributed among the
participants.

Compiled by Director Economic Justice and Development Organization (EJAD) Tahir Hasnain and Director Poda Sameena Nazir, the report says
that rural women in most parts of the country face multiple and
complex economic, social and cultural barriers in their access to
basic human rights.

It mentions that rural women play a vital yet unrecognized role in
Pakistan’s economy. They are major contributors to rural economy, crop
production, livestock education, and cottage industry and home based
entrepreneurs. “Even though rural women conduct over 60 percent of
agriculture work, they are not considered farmers because farmer is
the person who owns the land and most women do not own land.”

It points out that 79.4 percent of rural women are engaged in
agriculture as against 60.8 percent of men whereas the literacy of
rural women is only 7.3 percent. It depicts that most rural women work
an average of 12 to 14 hours a day to perform household and
agriculture work.

Representatives of rural women described the problems faced by the
rural women during panel negotiations. They supposed that in
agriculture sector, women did more than 50 percent work but they had
no share in the income gained from the crops.

Other issues highlighted by them were discrimination against rural
girl’s right, food insecurity, land rights and access to justice. They
assumed that there were no education and health facilities for women
that enhance their vulnerability in an already traditional social
setup.

Expressing concern over the impact of prevalent food crisis on women,
the panelists predicted that it would affect women much more than men.
“To increase production and lower their daily expenses, rural
population will start spending less on health and education of girls,”
they pointed out.

They demanded that government pay special attention to the issues
related to rural women and formulate a comprehensive policy in
consultation with the civil society. They called for organizing rural
women and running advocacy and awareness campaigns to apprise them of
their rights.

Addressing the participants, MPA from Chakwal and PPP leader Fauzia
Behram told ROD that rural women needed to speak up for themselves and
educate their daughters to change the discriminatory traditions.

Source:
Ferhan Mazher,
Chairman (Rays of Development Organization, Sargodha, Pakistan)

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