The Gender Equity Program (GEP) of Aurat Foundation celebrated 16 Days of Activism with the rest of the world from 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. The theme for this year’s campaign was the same as last year’s – From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!” GEP, through a nationwide campaign entitled, “Walk in Peace – Books in Hands” to draw attention to the importance of educating the girl child.
On 8 December, 2016 the program held an event at Islamabad Club consisting of GEP beneficiaries, community women, Aurat Foundation’s (AF) staff members, USAID personnel and the Ambassador of the United States of America as the Chief Guest. The event was moderated by Ms Naveeda Sultan, Media and Communication Specialist – GEP and Mr Raheem Khan, Program Officer – GEP. Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer – AF delivered the welcoming remarks stating that it was an immense pleasure for him to welcome Mr John Groarke, USAID Mission Director – Pakistan and Mr David Hale, Ambassador of the United States of America to Pakistan to this event.
While addressing at the event, He delved into the history of 16 days of activism and also highlighted the various days during 16 Days of Activism such as International Women Human Rights Defenders Days on 29 November, World AIDS Day on 1 December, International Day for Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, Montreal Massacre on December 6, International Voters Days on December 7 and International Human Rights Day on December 10. Mr Mirza also informed participants that this year the Punjab Government has declared December 7 as Pakistan Voters Day and the Federal Government should follow suit.
Ms Mahpara Shakil Ghori, Deputy Chief of Party – GEP, presented on GEP’s Contribution to Education. Ms Ghori gave a brief history of AF and then stated that in the past 6 years GEP has supported 24 public sector universities and has played a pivotal role in overseeing that these institutions are accredited by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). GEP
has also encouraged research and public service messages on women’s issues via 34 departments of Mass Communication and Information Services of these universities.
During this event a skit performance was also held to draw attention to the multiple issues such as sexual harassment, gender discrimination and gender based violence faced by women in Pakistani society. Think Link Communication (TLC) Theatre Group’s presented the skit “Khed Tamasha”.
The performance was followed by Aisha Anwar, a GEP beneficiary from Grant Cycle 9B under which GEP has supported public sector universities, coming on stage and sharing her story.
Dr Riffat Haque, Chairperson at Allama Iqbal Open University, said a few words in context to her relationship with GEP. Dr Riffat worked closely with GEP via the grant offered to National Commission on the Status of Women. She then discussed some of the initiatives undertaken with Allama Iqbal Open University.
His Excellency Mr David Hale, Ambassador of the United States of America, delivered a very eloquent speech in which he said that peace and prosperity depend on advancing the rights of women and girls all over the world. Education is crucial to raising income levels, quality of life and decreasing health risks.
He said that the United States of America has pledged to spend PKR 7.3 billion rupees on education in Pakistan. This funding will benefit a total of 200,000 girls. Ambassador Hale also said that furthering the cause of education is also part of the objective of combating gender based violence and will create a safer and better future for girls in Pakistan.
Mr Younas Khalid, Chief of Party – GEP and Chief Strategy and Policy – AF, delivered the closing remarks of the event. He thanked the USAID and the Government of the United States of America for their funding and support since 2010. Mr Khalid also stated that AF will continue to work on the initiatives introduced under GEP even after the project has concluded.