Reporting violence helps in prevention, creates awareness

The Punjab Government has taken the lead in implementing reforms centred towards women’s empowerment and protection, said Strategic Reforms Unit (SRU) Director General Salman Sufi.

The collaboration between SRU, Rozan and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) has shown the successful alliance, between civil society and government to tackle Violence Against Women (VAW), he said during a seminar titled Addressing Women Empowerment and Protection through Effective And Strategic Interventions recently in Islamabad.

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The seminar hosted by SRU, Rozan and NCA was attended by Ministry of Law and Justice Senior Consultant Mohsin Abbas, Rozan Managing DirectorBabar Bashir, Legal Aid and Awareness Services (LAAS) Executive Director Rakshanda Naz and NCA Gender Based Violence Programme Coordinator Sajila Khan amongst representatives from civil society, international NGOs, media and government personnel.

Rozan Programme Director Arifa Mazhar said responding to the cases of violence also has an imperative impact not only on the prevention of the issue but also on general trend and awareness in the society.

“An effective and efficient response mechanism needs to be integrated not only with medical, legal and social help, but it should also facilitate the women in the community to access the services without fear of being labelled or discriminated,” Mazhar said.

She emphasised the importance of sensitive approach and ethical handling of violence against women cases along with the provision of other effective response services.

The Chief Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit has introduced ground breaking women-centric reform including drafting and passage of Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act, establishment of the Violence Against Women Centre (VAWCs) which has solved more than 2,000 cases as well as setting-up the Punjab Women Protection Authority. SRU’s Women-on-Wheels campaign empowers women through the provision of free motorcycle trainings followed by subsidised motorbikes.

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Rozan is an Islamabad based NGO which works on issues related to emotional and psychological health, gender, violence against women and children, and the psychological and reproductive health of adolescents. The Norwegian Church Aid is an international NGO of Norway that works to save lives and seek justice in more than 21 countries around the world.

A MOU was signed between SRU, Rozan and Norwegian Church Aid as all three organisations share the same vision of strengthening the public sector institutions for improved Gender Based Violence response. The seminar is a culmination of the efforts made by these organisations over the past few years in their attempt to tackle gender based violence in Pakistan.

The seminar comprised of two panel discussions. The first panel discussion entailed the efforts taken by the Punjab government to prevent VAW with a focus on evaluating the Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) in Multan.

The second panel discussion focused upon the issues of women’s mobility as well as on creating safer public spaces for women as means of women empowerment and protection.

In the last section of the seminar, through detailed discussion participants penned down not only violence prevention strategies and response services against the very first incident of VAWG to prevent happening it again but also on measures for long Term sustainable post-violence care especially reintegration/ reinstatement at family and communal level.

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Sajila Khan said struggle against VAW is a long journey that needs a multifactorial and holistic approach entailing the essential element of institutional strengthening, attitudinal change, awareness raising and challenging the stereotypical norms.

A collaborative effort as done by the Punjab Government, along with institutions such as Rozan and NCA, can pave the way in this regard by implementing reforms targeting women’s access to justice, health and reproductive facilities, psychosocial and rehabilitative facilities as well as economic empowerment which will eventually lead to a violence free society based on fairness and equality, she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2018.

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