P@SHA & Bytes4All organize National Strategy Workshop
The morning of 19th February was one that we had been working toward for some time. There was anticipation and yet there was fear – anticipation because it was an important initiative that we were all excited to be a part of; fear that perhaps we had taken on more than we could handle, that the relevant people would not show up, etc. etc.
But we needn’t have worried. They were all there – the presenters and all the stakeholders – an interesting mix of women’s rights organizations, activists, media professionals, bloggers, lawyers and technologists who had gotten together to develop a National Strategy for the “Strategic Use of ICT to combat Violence Against Women and girls.” We had made arrangements for between 40 – 50 participants but were not expecting more than 25 to show up. Imagine our surprise when close to 50 showed up on both days and actively and passionately participated in the proceedings.
After having got the welcome and introduction of the project out of the way, Shahzad Ahmed of BytesforAll and I (on behalf of P@SHA) handed over to Nuzhat Kidvai who has been a key part of the Women’s Movement in Pakistan for many years. Nuzhat had been requested to present highlights from the draft Country Issue Paper which had been put together by Kyla Pasha. She did this very coolly while pointing out that the statistics and surveys were weak and some of the facts inaccurate.
Tahira Abdullah, a very outspoken and well-respected long-time activist from Islamabad, was not that gentle. She tore the paper to shreds (metaphorically speaking) stating that whoever had written it had very little knowledge of the women’s movement in Pakistan, its uphill struggle for decades and its achievements. Some of the key areas that she highlighted were:
2. The surveys conducted for the Issue Paper were very superficial and limited to a very small segment of te population. The results therefore did not reflect the facts.
3. Types of VAW that were listed in the paper were incomplete
4. The commentary and opinion stated about the Women’s movement was offensive, insulting and false. The paper stated that the women’s movement targeted religous groups and was anti-religion but did not take up the legitimate causes of VAW. The paper also stated that women’s rights organizations did not conduct research or provide input to the government on policies. Nothing was further from the truth, said Tahira. Consistent research had been carried out, policies had not only been scrutinized and commented on point by point, some policies had actually been drafted and provided to the government to move things along.
5. The list of organizations in the Issue Paper was anything but complete and in fact contained some organisations that were responsible for some of the ills that were faced by women in Pakistan.
6. The policies mentioned within the Issue Paper were also incomplete.
Tahira’s critical analysis of the paper was added to by Nuzhat Kidvai (who now felt she didn’t have to hold back how strongly she felt about the quality of the paper and its contents), Hilda Saeed and Nilofur Farrukh, all of whom had been active members of the Women’s Action Forum for decades.
After much passionate discourse, there was consensus that the paper needed to be re-drafted. Nuzhat Kidvai and Tahira Abdullah were requested to take responsibility for different parts of the paper and involve anyone else who was required.
After the intense discussion on the Issue Paper the group broke for a sumptuous lunch.
Watch out for Episode 2 of this report😉 which will be posted soon.