Posted by: Administrator | 2 August, 2006

President’s address at International Women’s Day

8 March 2007

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, President PML Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Federal Minister for Information Ali Durrani, Federal Minister for Women Development Sumaira Malik, Secretary General PML Mushahid Hussain, ministers, parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen, all organizers, participants and students. I am very glad and proud that I am addressing this huge gathering on International Women’s day. I would like to thank organizers for organizing this beautiful function and artists for their songs.

Today was declared International Women’s Day in 1908 and since then it is being celebrated. We now know and the world has realized that women cannot be ignored; it is for their betterment and for the country’s progress and development. The sad part is that though there is realization but bringing this change is taking time. I would like to speak on today’s theme, “From Concept to Reality.” The importance of this year is that we have taken so many steps for the betterment of women’s development and prosperity. On every level we have made policies and I consider it important to mention them: Convention on all forms of discrimination against women, we rectified this in our regime.

International Labour Organization Convention No. 100: equal remuneration between men and women. We also ratified this. Then at regional level or SAARC there is a convention against trafficking of women; we rectified this. So our Government had rectified these national and international conventions. They were old and ignored. But internationally they are considered important. Then I would like to come on national level. The first of all is Bill against honour killing. We enacted it, banned honour killing and set punishments against it. Then we made national policy for development and empowerment of women. Then we made gender reform action plan and adopted it. Then women protection act which is very important. There are some elements which repeatedly spread bad notions or misconceptions in the society. We amended Hudood Ordinance and they say it is against the spirit of Islam. In my view, they see Islam in their own perspective.

Islam should be taken with a brighter perspective and we should learn from those who know the true spirit of Islam. Pakistan was created for the Muslims of Subcontinent. It is Islamic Republic of Pakistan and it is written in its constitution that there cannot be any law which is against Islam. I have firm belief and you all should also believe that there is no un-Islamic aspect in this Ordinance. I want to tell you that Hudood; Hud is laid down in Islam. This Bill or Ordinance was made in 1979 by the Government and it is not God sent command which is not debatable or cannot be amended. So those elements who believe that it should not be altered are closed-minded people. The man-made policies are examined in light of current time and changed accordingly. Then there were also apprehensions that our governance would be affected by this change. But I want to say that when you have good intention and have faith that you are on the path of justice, there should be no fear because Allah is always with you. When we passed this Bill, those elements that were against it they had disunity in themselves.

Next we took steps to give political empowerment to women in our society i.e. giving destiny in your own hands and it is the basis towards development. Our Government allowed representation of women at every level both in the politics and decision making. Today, alhumdulillah, we are proud that almost 40,000 women are at the political level, staring from union council or district level up till senate. When I mention this in West they are surprised as they cannot imagine and because many developing countries do not have representation of women. So we have taken a big step and because of this we have given your destinies in your own hands so that you can raise your voices and put up your demands. The second thing besides political empowerment is equal opportunities; the most important factor is that there should be opportunities in governmental organizations. Here we have set 10% quota for Government jobs and I am glad that cabinet has passed this. Then you have seen that in armed forces women are being inducted. This was unthinkable 5-10 years back that they would be in armed forces except for doctors. I am glad that they are here today in uniform. And I believe they are the pioneers and brave because [to] bring a change in the society requires boldness and courage. And I believe that in the coming years their induction quota should be increased in armed forces. Earlier we used to ignore women in important positions.

Take an example of State Bank Governor. We examined her and found out that she is very talented and the right person to be on that designation. Then Major General Shahida Malik and this trend would continue in the future. Now I would like to talk about economic empowerment of women. We have to economically empower the poor so that the women of rural areas have confidence and can stand on their feet. We are doing a lot in this scenario. We have started micro-credit programs, e.g., First Women Bank, Khushhali Bank, Zarai Taraqiati Bank, all have been ordered that women should be given loans. Next is Food Support Program, “Guzara Allowance”, Rozgar Pakistan Scheme. National Bank is specially advised to give loans from Rs. 15,000 to 100,000 on reduced interest rate. Women are encouraged to open PCOs. They can open a PCO with a mobile phone and earn money. You might have seen that in Bangladesh, Dr. Grahman introduced this scheme and women there are running PCOs. I would like to encourage all the rural women to come forward and set up their own businesses and we would provide them facilities.

We are also setting up technical schools where vocational training would be given. Special attention would be given to vocational training of women. Army Corps Headquarter took the initiative and opened technical school in Lahore. They have courses for ladies such as beautician, stitching and knitting etc. Those who have learned the skills and graduated are now running their own businesses with Rs. 15,000- 20,000 kit provided by the institute. They would progress with their self determination or motivation. So this is a step forward. We are also especially encouraging education of women so they can compete with men and I can proudly say that women are doing better than men. I am glad that wherever I went, on youth conventions or convocations, and distributed medals, the majority is women.

This is all because of Allah’s blessing and your own hard work. I would say that many ministers, MNAs and Senators are present here on this occasion. I would advice you to go forward, awake and bring awareness in women, spread education and improve their health. This is a way forward that we have provided you support and we would continue supporting you. But in the ultimate analysis you have to bring yourself to rise above and organize yourself.

How would you reach to the top? Starting from education, skill development and health and these three factors would build your capacity. When you would have more capabilities than men, you would be able to demand more opportunities or quota. Why is it that in the political scenario why there are 33 at the union council and 17% quota at the national assembly? This can be increased in my point of view. In future it should be increased depending upon your struggle. Your share in the country’s progress should be 50% I would request all the women at the upfront to help the women in rural areas.

Lastly, my request to you all is that there has been extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. We have to face this. I or the Government, police or army cannot do it alone because it is people’s mental state. So, I would appeal women to stop all those men who are connected to you i.e. your relatives from the path of extremism. I want to quote you two examples which are in front of you: a lady Minister Zillah-e-Huma was murdered. This is not what Islam preaches and we do not want to go on this path. The second example I would give is that two weeks back a father sent a letter to me requesting to bring back his school going son as he had joined some Jehade organization. This is not Jihad. Jihad is a defensive concept i.e. when you have threat then one should go on Jihad. If this was the concept of Islam then it wouldn’t have flourished in the world. This is not what Islam preaches. Islam believes in unity and oneness. I would want to say stop those men and even women who are ready for Jihad. This path is not in favor of Pakistan. We cannot succeed if our basic integrity is shaken. I would request all womenfolk to help and support the Government. I am glad and thankful to all those who have organized this program.

May Allah bless you all. I wish you good health, success, happiness and contentment in life. Pakistan Paindabad.

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