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AAWAZ Voice and Accountability Programme’s AAWAZ National Forum, Islamabad


AAWAZ Voice and Accountability Programme’s AAWAZ National Forum

Aurat Foundation organized and hosted the inaugural meeting of AAWAZ National Forum (ANF) on November 7, 2013, at its head office in Islamabad.   The Forum, a representative body of AAWAZ – Voice and Accountability Programme, envisioned as a national forum, will serve as a strategic platform to strategize on key reform areas and provide technical input for promoting women’s political participation, ending violence against women and gender-based legislation, as well as peaceful resolution of conflicts and citizens’ engagement for effective service delivery under main AAWAZ themes in consultation with similar provincial forums and different stakeholders. The forum would comprise representatives of political parties, members of civil society organizations including six AWAZ programme’s partner organizations, representatives from media, academia, lawyers, from relevant institutions like NADRA and ECP, two members from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces where the AAWAZ programme is being implemented.


Mr Harris Khalique, Team Leader AAWAZ programme, gave a brief note on objectives of the programme. He said that AAWAZ programme would focus on enhanced political participation of women in larger public life without fear of gender-based violence, conflict resolution to address tribal, familial, sectarian, ethnic, faith-based or other kinds of conflicts, and citizens’ engagement to achieve better public service delivery particularly in the areas of health and education.  Another overarching component of AAWAZ is policy, analysis, research and results (PARR) facility to synthesise information build robust evidence base around community voice and empowerment, social change, relevant policy influence and government reform

Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat Foundation said that AAWAZ programme is flagship project in the broad area of gender, governance, democracy and civil society, and it was cconceived after taking stock of Pakistan’s political economy, sociology and issues around development and much larger corresponding support to public sector.  He further said that it is designed to nourish and nurture democratic processes from below by capitalising on existing citizens’ action.

Ms Feroza Zahra, briefed the ANF members about its Terms of Reference (TORs) and role. She said that the ANF will develop a strategic plan in consultation with concerned partners and stakeholders. Important TORs include: Regular periodic consultations for thematic areas particularly increased women’s participation in politics, advocacy and lobbying for AAWAZ thematic areas, facilitate legislation, policy making and procedural changes/ amendments for AAWAZ thematic inputs, follow ups on different initiatives, and provide capacity support by technical experts to understand and promote issues of women’s participation and safety in the political and public spaces.  The ANF’s structure include all five partners and management organization will be core body; all partners nominates one person from each organization including MO but three technical leads will be also part of this forum to facilitate in respective output thematic areas as and when required. Aurat Foundation will provide secretarial support to AAWAZ National Forum as thematic lead. 

Ms Riffat But, legal expert, spoke on the current issues of citizen’s rights and gender based legislation.  She said that Pakistan has recently made progressive achievement on gender-based legislation, and that has brought another challenge of the effective implementation of these women-friendly laws / legislation.  However, there remain some other daunting issues which still require a lot of work and lobbying e.g. domestic violence, trafficking, early marriages, economic empowerment of rural women etc.  Provincial assemblies must be provided technical support for introducing legislation on the issues of minority women. She suggested that the forum shall focus on the compliance of all the UN conventions reference to women’s rights which Pakistan has signed including CEDAW.

While discussing the major objectives of the forum, the members suggested that after evaluating the type and rate of violence against women, the forum shall raise the issue at relevant forums so that to effectively eradicate the violence against women and intolerance from the society.  Ms Farhana Qamar, MNA- PML (N) and Ms. Asiya Nasir, MNA (JUI-F) suggested that the forum shall involve the parliamentarians from the districts where the AAWAZ programme is being implemented.  

Instead of nominating the parliamentarian the consortium partners need to contact the mainstream parties and ask for nominating their representatives.  Ms Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson NCSW, said that suggested the representation from all provinces in the ANF.

Role of provinces is very important and we need to add representatives from the provincial level also. On the issue of sustainability of the forum, the AAWAZ  partners responded that looking at their history and experiences of networking and advocacy they are sure to ensure the sustainability of the forum.   It was envisaged to also engage law ant d human rights commission representative in this forum.

AAWAZ – Voice and Accountability Programme, a five-year (2012 to 2017), is striving to strengthen stable, inclusive and tolerant democracy in Pakistan. The Programme views democracy through a gender lens, and intends to contribute to women’s political empowerment, resolution of conflicts across the communities that it works with, and better public service delivery in the areas of health and education through informed and active engagement of citizens. Between 2012 and 2017, AAWAZ will work in at least 7000 villages and urban settlements across 45 districts, 26 district of Punjab and 19 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  The programme is managed by Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI) and implemented by Pakistan’s prime civil society organizations: Aurat Foundation (AF), South-Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), SUNGI Development Foundation (SDF) and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).  districts in Pakistan’s two provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).