Provinces struggling with women empowerment, protection

  • Punjab leading in women rights pursuits with about 30 PAS female officers and 25 PMS officers on key administrative slots
  • Only one provincial department headed by female officer in Sindh while Balochistan lacks ombudsperson office with WDD headed by male officer
  • With Center boasting seasoned lady as ombudsperson, KP lags behind in women empowerment with no ombudsperson office and independent WDD

 

Two of the country’s four main provinces have no ombudsperson offices for ensuring a safe working environment for women, leaving them vulnerable to harassment, abuse and intimidation, Pakistan Today has learnt.

These offices have to be established in provinces under the act, “Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace”, promulgated by the federal government in March 2010. The establishment of these offices is also compulsory under the Human Rights Declaration, the United Nation’s Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and ILO’s Convention 100 and 111 on workers’ rights, a senior official of the federal government said.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has no independent Women Development Department to safeguard women rights whereas Sindh and Balochistan departments are headed by male officers, the official said, adding that except in Punjab, there is no Commission on the Status of Women.

The Punjab government established the office of Ombudsperson in December 2013 and Women Development Department in April 2014 under Punjab Women Empowerment Package, said Saba Saddiq, a PML-N parliamentarian.

The Punjab government established Commission on the Status of Woman in Punjab for the empowerment of women, expansion of opportunities for socio-economic development of women and elimination of all forms of gender discrimination against females, Saddiq added, maintaining that gender issues were now being discussed in Punjab in the mainstream.

PUNJAB TAKES LEAD:

At present, Punjab has largest number of civil female officers working on key slots to deal with governance affairs and contribute in public affairs through Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) and Provincial Management Service (PMS).

Among the provinces, Punjab has a leading role to raise and protect the rights of the female segment of the society.

In provincial administrative hierarchy, about 30 female officers belong to PAS and 25 of PMS are presently posted on key administrative slots.

Presently six female officers are posted as administrative secretaries to head the departments. These include: higher education, human rights and minority affairs secretary, archives secretary, Punjab Public Service Commission secretary, women development secretary and Special Education Department secretary. It means, out of 36 provincial departments, six are headed by female civil officers to contribute in policy making and implementation of government decisions, Saddiq maintained.

SINDH LAGS BEHIND:

In Sindh, there are 36 provincial departments and only one (Industries Department) is headed by female officer. Although Sindh government has Women Development Department but it is headed by a male officer Ahmed Bux Narejo.

Moreover, there is independent office of Ombudsperson to hear the complaints of female work force on harassment at work place, headed by Peer Ali Shah (a male officer).

WDD Deputy Secretary Musharat Jabeen said the provincial government adopted “Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace” and Shah was appointed Ombudsperson in 2013. The formation of Commission on the Status of Woman was in progress and Sindh government was doing many projects to ensure gender equality, Jabeen added.

MALE OFFICER FOR BALOCH WOMEN:

In Balochistan, there is no office of Ombudsperson but has Women Development Department which is headed by a male officer, Haider Ali Sheiko.

Out of 32 provincial departments, no female is serving as administrative secretary despite the presence of one senior female civil officer.

According to Women Development Department Director Salma Quershi, the federal bill was pending with the assembly. As the bill becomes an act, the office of ombudsperson would be established to listen the complaints of females about harassment at workplaces, Quershi added.

Earlier, the Balochistan government adopted the federal act but after the 18th Amendment, a bill was presented in assembly for legislation, Quershi maintained.

KP IS NO DIFFERENT:

The situation in KP is not different as there is no office of ombudsperson and independent Women Development Department.

One female officer Farah Hamid Khan is heading one department as science and technology, information department secretary out of 34 departments.

Another lady civil officer Ruksana Tareen Bangush of the provincial service was serving in federal government on deputation, the S&GAD secretary said.

Women development wing is attached with Zakat, Ushr and Social Welfare Department said Women Development Section Officer Shogufta.

The sitting up of Women Ombudsperson office was in process under the federal act, she added. Presently all complaints of harassment of women at workplaces were being dealt in a committee headed by a judge, Shogufta said.

WHAT ABOUT THE CENTER?

In the federal government, out of 26 ministries/divisions, only one is being headed by female civil officer, Parveen Agha, as Railways secretary. Male bureaucrats are clinching the other 25 top slots, leaving no room for gender equality and emancipation of women.

The federal government is committed to creating a safe working environment for women, which is free of harassment, abuse and intimidation with a view toward fulfillment of their right to work with dignity, a senior official from the federal government said.

The government appointed a seasoned lady as ombudsperson to ensure equal opportunity for men and women and their right to earn a livelihood without fear of discrimination in the line of the Constitution, he added.



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