The second Network Meeting of women-led CSOs from Balochistan under the Sisters’ Voice Project was held on 03 May 2016 in Quetta.
The meeting brought together women from 12 civil society organisations to share progress on the network’s activities, and to present the perspective of lawyers, police, representatives of government departments and parliamentarians on the need for collaborative efforts for improved enforcement of pro-women laws.
Ms. Farzana Khilji, Vice President, Quetta Bar Association spoke about the pro-women laws that have recently been passed at both provincial and federal levels. She said this was an achievement however the common people do not have enough information about these laws, which is also a reason that enforcement is so weak. She recommended mass awareness campaigns in rural and urban areas to increase awareness regarding these laws.
Mr. Sajjad Haider Tareen, Senior Superintendent Police (Crime & Legal) presented the reforms introduced in the police system to facilitate women. He said the number of women police officers in Balochistan has increased to 150, and a model police reporting centre has also been set-up in Quetta which takes cases from all over the province. The biggest problem he believes is that women, especially from rural areas are not aware of these facilities. Moreover, our culture does not allow women to approach police stations. Mr. Tareen welcomed the network members to meet with him and discuss issues which were highlighted at the meeting.
Ms. Salma Qureshi, Director Women Development Department briefed the network members on the laws being formed by the department. She highlighted the Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act which was passed recently. Currently, the department is conducting meetings with various departments and also writing letters to form committees to address complaints against sexual harassment. Nonetheless, the department is facing the problem of shortage of resources and requires assistance from the civil society organisations to spread awareness on pro-women laws.
Ms. Masooma Hayat, Member Provincial Assembly said that it is encouraging to see that pro-women legislation is being done pro-actively in the current parliament and women parliamentarians are an active part of the process. Implementation though, requires collaborative efforts by all the stakeholders, she stressed.
Ms. Saima Haroon, Deputy Director, Aurat Foundation spoke about “Sustaining Networks: Opportunities and Challenges”. She said networking helps to connect energies, synergies, resources and solutions to solve problems. Unfortunately, in Pakistan most of the networks are off-shoots of some project and after the end of the project; networks are also split and cannot be sustained. She advised the network members to have a positive attitude and develop a work plan for the future.
Ms. Mahwish Zeeshan, President of the Sisters’ Voice Network in Balochistan shared progress of the network and highlighted challenges which they faced. The last session of the meeting was dedicated to planning coordination meetings with stakeholders, which the members committed to have in May 2016.
The Sisters’ Voice is a two year project funded by the Commonwealth Foundation.