Pakistan taking steps for women’s empowerment: Haqqani
WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s democratic leaders are working on a series of legislative and socio-economic initiatives towards empowerment and full participation of women in national life, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani said.
He was speaking at a reception hosted at the Pakistan embassy in honour of Pakistani recipient of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award, Roshaneh Zafar, who is founder of Kashf Foundation, a microfinance organisation empowering women in Pakistan.
Haqqani informed the gathering of American and Pakistani women leaders, activists and diplomats that the Pakistani Parliament recently enacted a legislation to ensure protection of women at workplaces.
President Zardari signed into law on the International Women’s Day this week, he added. Besides, he said, the Parliament is working on legislation against domestic violence, which will make Pakistan one of the first Muslim countries to have progressive legislation so that women who are subjected to domestic violence will be able to have redress through the judicial system. The envoy said the elected government is following the vision of Shaheed leader Benazir Bhutto, the first elected woman prime minister in the Muslim world and in this respect referred to commitment to ensuring gender equality, protection of women’s rights and programs like income support funds to empower women.
“Pakistan is striving to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of life. In the political arena, we now have 17 per cent representation of women in the Senate and the National Assembly, which results in higher representation of women in our legislature than the United States.”
“Today, there are 72 women parliamentarians in the 342-member National Assembly and the speaker of the National Assembly is a woman,” said the ambassador, whose wife, Farahnaz Ispahani, is also a member of the House.
Haqqani said Pakistan is undergoing transformation, with the democratic government pursuing a vision that empowers women, sends all children to school, and engages the young people in productive employment.
“We do not want Pakistan to be associated with the notions of parochialism and extremism – we want to make sure that Pakistan is not seen as a nation lying at a crossroads of conflict but a nation that sits at the crossroad of opportunities for all the nations of the region.”
He praised Roshaneh Zafar for her work toward empowerment of women through microfinance initiative. In her remarks, Roshaneh Zafar, founder and managing director of the Kashf Foundation, said the first microfinance organisation focuses on low-income Pakistani women and related how inspired by the success of Professor Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, she pursued this idea and initially established the Kashf Foundation, meaning “a process of self-discovery,” as a research programme.
The organisation then grew into Pakistan’s first financially sustainable microfinance institution, and in 1999 the Kashf Foundation introduced the first pro-women consumption loan in the entire microfinance sector.
Today, Zafar’s organisation has grown from a mere fifteen female clients in 1996 to having over 301,000 clients in 2009, making it the third largest microfinance institution in Pakistan.
She said Pakistan’s microfinance initiatives are now being studied by several countries including India and Turkey. Shaista Mahmood, a prominent Pakistani-American associated with the rights of women and leaders of Vital Voices also spoke on the occasion.
Source: The News