Second Network Meeting of Women-led CSO’s Under the Sisters’ Voice
The second Network Meeting of women-led CSOs under the Sisters’ Voice Project was held on 01 March, 2016 in Lahore. The meeting was held just a few days after the Punjab Government passed the Women Protection Bill, and a day after a Pakistani female director, Ms. Sharmeen Obaid, won the prestigious Oscar award for her documentary on honour crimes.
The meeting brought together women from fourteen civil society organisations to share progress on the network’s activities, and present the perspective of civil society and police on the need for collaborative efforts for improved enforcement of pro-women laws.
Ms. Mumtaz Mughal, Resident Director, Aurat Foundation, Lahore stressed on the need for more awareness on various pro-women laws. She said that over the past few years many pro-women laws have not only been passed by the Punjab Government but efforts have also been made to improve the implementation mechanism. There is still not enough awareness on these laws, both among masses and the CSOs, she added. Ms. Mughal suggested that as civil society members, every organisation of the network should have a complete understanding of one or two laws and later aim at spreading awareness on these laws among target communities.
Mr. Ahmad Ishaque Jahangir, Deputy Inspector General Police (Research and Development), Punjab, while speaking on the role of the police in improving the implementation of the pro-women laws said that out of 709 police stations in Punjab, help desks to facilitate women have been established in 680 police stations. The process to establish help desks in the remaining police station is slow as currently there is a shortage of women police officers. However, as per the new recruitment policy, five (05) percent quota is now allocated for women, therefore, it is hoped that in next few years the number of women police officers will increase substantially. He also appreciated the idea of establishing a network consisting of women-led CSOs and assured that he will send letters to Deputy Police Officers or Chief Police Officers in the relevant districts to help network members in their research and advocacy initiatives.
A session was also held on the “Sustaining Networks: Opportunities and Challenges”. Mr. Salman Abid, Regional Director, Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) was invited to facilitate this session. While sharing his thoughts on the topic he emphasised that as network members, the participants should treat everyone equally and make an effort to remain in contact with each other. They should also focus on their strengths and try to address one or two objectives/issues at one time.
Network members shared updates from the network’s activities, mainly coordination meetings with stakeholders. Six meetings were held between January – February 2016 with members of provincial assembly, lawyers, police and local bodies’ representatives. It is encouraging to note that all the stakeholders extended their support to the network, in an effort to improve enforcement of women protection laws.
The meeting also provided network members with an opportunity to plan the way forward. They said that being a part of the network has proved a great learning experience for them and their knowledge on women protection laws has improved manifold. They also reiterated their aim to keep the network intact and work towards improving the implementation of women protection laws.