working women sexual harassment projected by AASHA!
On Thursday, January 31; An assembly by Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA), which comprises of organizations including: Actionaid, Mehergarh, Bedari, Pilor and Intereko Resource Center, was held in Best Western Islamabad at 11 am and ended at 6 pm.
In the conference many working women flee from all corners of the country including cities like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Chakwal and many others. The women attended the conference are working in different factories including nurses from different hospitals.
The conference was headed by Dr. Fouzia saeed from Mehergarh and Aqsa Khan from Actionaid. The chief guests were Madam Mehnaz Rafi and Doniya Aziz, member PML (Q), Saeeda Arfa Zahra from NCSW and Saima Khar from PPP and renowned Poetess Kishwar Naheed were present.
The conference started with a stage play in which the problems and how a young nurse being harassed by the male doctors and nurses. It also depicted the mental trauma through which women suffers as she has no one on her back who would listen to her and help her instead she will be the one to be blamed and fired from her job.
The debate was that why working women of Pakistan are being harassed and what consequences they have to face. On the AASHA platform the NGOs representatives presented a code of conduct for gender justice and demanded for the protection of working women in Pakistan. At this point Saeeda Arfa Zahra said and I cote “Men kill women for their own honor, if it is about their honor why do not they kill themselves. If it would be about our honor we will kill ourselves by ourselves”, on this women in the hall clapped with all their hearts. She also added that women have to make their own identity and stand strong. They are neither helpless nor weak only if they know what their strengths are.
The code of conduct for gender justice had 15 points; some of them are as follows:
1. It demanded that women should not only be referred as mothers, wives and daughters but they should be taken as a human being first, as they are much more than their relations with the men in their lives.
2. It demands that women should be provided with social and legal protection at work places.
3. Asked from political parties to clearly state what they will do for the working women in their mandate.
4. To have legislation that gives women protection against sexual harassment at work place.
5. Government should institutionalize the code of conduct for gender justice (anti sexual harassment policy) for all the government hospitals and health services.
6. the government of Pakistan honors the international commitment i.e. CFDAW, ILO Convention 100 and 111 that covers fundamental rights of men and women at work
Later that evening after lunch break the visiting working women were divided into three groups
1. general problems
2. factory workers
Within these groups, women shared their experiences of harassment at their work place and tell how society and locality members treat them if they know about their harassment. One of the factory members said that it does not matter who’s fault is it, woman is the only entity being blamed for every action and situation. People point fingers on her character no matter how poise she is. Women also complained that managers and owners prefer young beautiful women for their organization and give them better salaries as compared to the older women who are degraded and appointed at less salary.(we in the cities relate to it by knowing the fact that young beautiful girls are prefered for reception jobs)
While talking to Dr. Fouzia Saeed few students of different universities complained that their male teachers use degrading and abusive words for women while teaching women. And prefer giving good marks to those who have good looks. In answer to that I, as was also present there, said that being a student I think ones most important concern would be to get good grades and if that person knows that teacher will give her that, if she smile to him, she would do that because she has to survive in her college or university and in her practical life as well. So blaming a woman for being beautiful isn’t right. another problem is that in women universities such as Fatimah Jinnah Women university, Rawalpindi smoking is prohibited to keep the environmnet clean but the outsiders, male, and faculity memebers are allowed to smoke. the point is if they are then why not university students? in our society smoking is related to one’s character specially if its a woman who smokes but for men there is always an excuse or explanation.
There were many core problems being discussed which I think it would be better if we talk on those on this platform with my readers through discussion.
Is there any solution to stop women discrimination and harassment? Can we give a better life to the women of Pakistan? Will men ever stop taking woman as an ornament? And treat her as a fellow human being but not as someone’s daughter, mother or wife?
Is there any change in the behavior of young men and women of today’s Pakistan or they are as well following the foot steps of deep routed behaviors of men, from centuries, towards women?
At the end I salute those women who came to this conference and shared their experiences without any hesitation or shyness. I think you and I can never have this much courage to tell more than 100 audience that you have been abused or harassed. Hats off to them.
Give it a deep thought and then write what you think of it.