Pakistan has witnessed increasing harassment and violence towards women seeking change, ActionAid stands with the rights of women and girls to live free from gender-based violence and enjoy economic empowerment.
ActionAid Pakistan is working in three focused areas around women rights that are economic empowerment, promoting girls education and governance and combating girls’ child marriage.
In order to own and control productive resources, we widely engage in organizing women into providing them with technical and financial support to engage them in income generating activities. Many Reflect Centers have been created by ActionAid in different LRPs. The Centers have since transformed into an economically empowered group.
With our objective of targeting the poorest of the poor, many women have finally started their own small business. ActionAid support these women to initiate small entrepreneurships.Steps are taken to build their capacities regarding record keeping and maintaining market linkages.
Shahida Bibi from Mansehra says, “Now I feel very strong and happy. I own a small tuck shop which helps me earn (on average) Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 per day. It helps me pay for education, food and clothing of my children. Moreover, the initiative also changed my social status. People appreciate my effort which inspires me to convince other women for taking measures to set up their own business. I am thankful to ActionAid and ODO for their continuous support which enabled me to earn my livelihood”.
Human rights based approach of ActionAid prioritizes landless women peasants to claim their right to land and sustainable agriculture. This is interesting to mention that we are working in all the four provinces to help women to claim for their right to inheritance property.
In this regard, ActionAid Pakistan has launched a long term campaign to help thousands of women farmers to demand their right to own and control land. One of the major successes of campaign was the allotment of government’s land to landless farmers in Sindh. 70% of beneficiaries were women.
“After ownership of the land my socio-economic status is improved. I got the financial benefit of around PKRs 5000/ in the last season”, says Bhana from District Thatta.
Women have adopted sustainable agriculture practices. In order to promote their leadership, ActionAid supports them in establishing seed banks to promote their capacity to handle their financial matters effectively.
“Terimat Sanjh selected 14 poor women as member of women cooperative through a participatory process. Women Cooperative opened its seed bank account for dealing financial matters. I was one of from 14 members of Terimat Sanjh who were selected for this financial support. Now I can sponsor my children education and provide them with nourished food”, says Naseem Mai of Layyah
ActionAid also prioritize women participation to analyze their vulnerabilities to hazards. The objective is to mitigate the impact of disasters and to prepare them for effective response. The efforts consist of women group formation in hazard mapping and analysis.
“ActionAid is so kind to provide us with the first aid, search, rescue and early warning trainings. It inspired me to become a volunteer. Flood 2010 was a huge and unexpected happening of my life. People particularly women at that time were struggling to meet the food needs, shelter, sanitation etc. I feel myself better prepared in 2012 floods as compared to2010 flood disaster situation”, says Shabana 20 years, single is a resident of Kashmore.
Reasons for gender based violence are multiple like women lack of access to financial resources, lack of political participation, domestic violence and girls are denied right to education. Reports revealed that denial to education leads towards marrying off girls at early age against their will.
Girl child's Marriage(GCM) is at the core of all areas of work of ActionAid. Early age marriage is a form of violence which is prevalent in most of the communities in which we are working particularly in the LRPs of Bhakkar and Kot Addu. This practice apart from denying girls their right to education is illegal. This practice breaches the law which sets the marriageable minimum age at 18 years.
ActionAid Pakistan worked with the community to analyze the impact of early marriage on young girls and made recommendations to repeal the existing laws so that girls are not discriminated. Various vigilant groups have been formed to sensitize the community about the demerits of girls’ child marriage.
“I faced many health related issues due to early age marriage. While giving birth to a child, there is always danger of serious health complications for both mother and the child. In a few cases, even deaths of both mother and child were reported. I am fortunate that I did not die but it was such a painful experience that I am even scared of recalling those days. Now I am part of vigilance group whose responsibility is to make sure that girls in this area are not married at early age”, says Fozia Bibi from Bhakkar.
To address this harmful practice, ActionAid Pakistan launched an "Alliance against Child Marriages (AACM) in June 2013 with the support of 16 other likeminded organizations. The Alliance has one point agenda which says that the legal age for marriage ought not to be less than 18 years.
With the formation of Women cooperatives, AAPk has been supporting poor women in the village communities to promote quality education. They have been able to get admissions through distance learning, paying examination fees etc. ActionAid considers education as a way to improving girls performance which leads to enhanced women economic empowerment.
“Thanks to the ActionAid's funded Lady Health visitor (LHV) course which enable me to serve as a LHV in the nearby basic health unit. More than 40 girls (age group 18 to 35) have so far been supported in admissions to bring a positive change in their lives for a real and lasting empowerment of this marginalized vulnerable segment of society”, says Uzlifat of Buner.
Keeping in view the structural inequalities and discriminatory practices against women, our work on women rights strives to enable women and girls to secure and exercise their rights through improved leadership. It helps in the organization and action for social and economic justice.