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Women Caravan for ending gender discrimination

Islamabad, 24 May 2011: A caravan of flood affected women demands for fiscal allocation in federal budget 2011-2012 to address women specific issues including protection from violence, discrimination and hunger as well as land ownership and control over productive resources.


In lieu with marking one year flood anniversary, the caravan has been organised by ActionAid Pakistan and PODA (Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy). women from different flood hit areas of Pakistan including Sindh, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and South Punjab gathered here on Tuesday to rally public and media support for the cause of poor women affected heavily by the unprecedented floods of 2010.

A large number of rural women joined by students, civil society, and concerned citizens travelled around in Islamabad in a 40 ft float decorated with banners. They gave theatrical performances in Fatima Jinnah Park, Islamabad. They demanded that government should issue Watan cards to flood affected women on priority, women farmers should be given ownership of land and control over productive resources, and women should be prioritized in the flood rehabilitation process.

Jannat Mai from Kot Adu, a proactive participant of the Caravan said, ‘Those were the horrible days of our life as massive flood waves came all of sudden and washed away all of our belonging. In the aftermath of the floods, women found themselves in the most vulnerable situation as there was a marked rise in incidents of domestic violence and gender discrimination in relief and rehabilitation programmes sponsored by the government’.

Women’s Caravan blended with interesting features of folk music, folk dance and interactive street theater attracted a large number of audience and supporters from different sections of the society. Starting from Tuesday, it will end its journey on Wednesday before the National Press Club where apart from presenting street plays, demanded inclusion of women in the process, planning and implementation of reconstruction and rebuilding by the Govt/ International and national NGOs.

‘Women were also barred from collecting relief material from food distribution centers because of recurrent incidence of harassment and misconduct. Similarly, women were marginalized in ‘Watan Card’ distribution scheme which affected their morale to cope with emergency situation’, said Sakeena, a women farmer from Layyah.

The floods affected 78 out of a total of 141 districts in Pakistan, covering one third of its geographical area and more than 18 million people (one tenth of Pakistan’s population), and devastated villages across the entire country. 14 million people (including 9.18 million women) were in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. An estimated area of 50,000 square kilometers (km) was ravaged, 2.2 million hectares of standing crops were destroyed and half a million livestock were lost. There were 1,980 deaths confirmed, and 1.7 million homes and 10,000 schools damaged or destroyed.

ActionAid Pakistan has planned a series of events to highlight issues facing the women and poor flood affected people one year after the flood disaster. The planned activities spanning three months, May to July, include a unique Women’s Caravan in Islamabad, a policy dialogue on Disaster Risk Reduction in Post 18th amendment scenario; a special publication on flood emergency and response, with testimonies from flood affected women and children; and a grand multi- stakeholders’ consultation in which poor communities from flood affected areas and representatives of responsible authorities and policy makers will participate.