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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 13 Apr 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Mumbai: Frayed Nerves to Abusive Husbands, Women Turn to Helplines for Solace

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 Apr 2020

Thousands of women are addicted to drugs in Pakistan, but avoid talking about it due to social stigma. Photo shows Haseena Bibi, a recovered drug addict. (Supplied )


• Mumbai: Frayed Nerves to Abusive Husbands, Women Turn to Helplines for Solace

• Pakistan Government Urged to Do More for Female Drug Addicts

• The Art Exhibition Empowering Women in Afghanistan To Fight for Their Rights

• Service and Untold Sacrifices: Women on The Covid-19 Frontline In Malaysia

• Priti Patel’s Non-Apology Over PPE Served Its Purpose – Making You Feel Responsible For The Government’s Failings

• Flour Power: Bakery Trains Pakistani Women to Rise to Life’s Challenges

• Ministry Releases Policy Brief Exploring Gendered Impact of Covid-19 In Pakistan

• Coronavirus Fallout Worse for Pakistan Women Than Men Bailout Package for Women Entrepreneurs Demanded

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Mumbai: Frayed nerves to abusive husbands, women turn to helplines for solace

Apr 13, 2020

Sujata Lavande is not a doctor but, in the last eight days, she has received 22 calls from women complaining of headaches, giddiness and general discomfort. The callers are chiefly wives of zari workers, fruit sellers and other daily wage workers who have lost their income to the lockdown. It's when these workers nap between noon and 4 pm that Lavande's phone rings the most.

The counsellor works with Committee of Resource Organisation, an empowerment NGO, which had recently distributed pamphlets mentioning their helpline number for domestic violence victims in around 8,400 shanties in Govandi and Chembur.

Apart from violence, though, the women call in to confide feelings of anxiousness and suffocation during the lockdown owing to their overstuffed spaces, frustrated husbands, threadbare larders and ever-present kids which denies them access to simple escapes such as the TV remote.

Noting that the victims of domestic violence are especially vulnerable during isolation, the National Commission for Women--which received 69 domestic violence cases between March 23 and April 2--recently launched an exclusive WhatsApp number for such victims. And so far, the nature of distress calls received by 'Mala Bolaycha Ahe', the state government's helpline for domestic abuse victims and the aggregate concerns heard by similar helplines launched by various NGOs in the city, seem to present an undercurrent of claustrophobia-aggravated suffering, both physical and mental.

"Before the lockdown, we used to get about 15 to 16 phone calls a month," says Dr Nayreen Daruwalla of SNEHA, an NGO that runs 11 counselling centres across slum communities in Mumbai and four centres in various hospitals in the city. "Over the last few days, we are getting three to four calls per day from women belonging to middle-class families who have moved out of the house," says Daruwalla, adding that job uncertainty has caused situations to escalate during isolation. She cites the recent case of a woman who was "beaten black and blue in her ninth month of pregnancy" by her husband who had lost his job.

Some complaints transcend matrimony. Divya Taneja of the state government's Special Cell for Women and Children, recalls getting a call from a single woman--a diabetes and high BP patient--who was staying with her brother and children in a low-income household. "She said she was unable to rest at home," says Taneja. "Since shelter homes are not easily accessible and going to native homes is not really an option, women are feeling constrained," she adds.While earlier the counsellors would follow up on such calls with personal visits to the family, "virtual intervention" presents its own challenges. This is perhaps why Hasina Khan of Aawaz-e-Niswaan--a feminist collective of students and academicians that addresses everyday concerns of Muslim women--says her volunteers resort to a firmer tone while talking to abusive husbands over the phone. "They have to say things like 'the courts are shut so if you are arrested, you won't be able to get bail' so that fear sets in and things don't go out of hand," says Khan.

Also, economic uncertainty has presented women with a choice between the devil and the deep sea. "They are wondering what they must prioritize. 'Should I worry about facing violence or hunger?'," she says.

While Daruwalla is happy with the co-operation provided by the police, Khan finds the law and order system to be wanting in terms of action against domestic violence cases during the lockdown.


Pakistan government urged to do more for female drug addicts


April 02, 2020

PESHAWAR: Today, Haseena Bibi, 43, is clean from substance abuse. But says she cannot recall any significant events in her life since 2014 — when she first became addicted to drugs.

“A time came when, without heroin, my entire body would feel paralyzed, and I would remain in bed for days because of the unbearable pain,” Bibi, a mother of two, told Arab News from her residence in Peshawar’s Pishtakhara Payan village.

According to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and Pakistan’s Ministry of Narcotics Control in 2013, 6.7 million people in Pakistan had taken drugs at some point in their lives, while 4.4 million were addicted and needed immediate attention. That report is the latest official information available on drug abuse in Pakistan.

The report added that women accounted for 22 percent of the total number of drug addicts, with the highest prevalence in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, of which Peshawar is the capital.

“Pakistan’s KP province shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan. A sophisticated network of smugglers use illegal routes to smuggle drugs into the country,” Mian Iftikhar Husain, a psychiatrist who runs a psychiatry and rehabilitation clinic in Peshawar, told Arab News.

He claimed that the majority of women who become addicted to drugs do so because of their partners.

“Easy availability of cheap drugs attracts young girls and women, as it helps them escape the worries and monotony of their lives,” Husain said.

Bibi agrees. She says she was living a healthy life before her husband became addicted to hashish. He was unemployed, meaning financial responsibility fell on Bibi’s shoulders.

When her husband ran away from their family home in 2013, Bibi says she had to take on menial work to support herself and her two children. One day, in between jobs as a domestic helper at various houses, she was introduced to heroin with the promise that “one sniff will make you forget all your worries.”

“At the time, I didn’t know it was heroin. Slowly, I became addicted,” Bibi said, adding that she finally decided to seek help after realizing that she had been trapped by heroin smugglers who initially did not charge her for the drugs, but had made her “so dependable that I couldn’t function normally without taking two to three doses a day,” at which point, the dealers began to demand payment.

Help came in the form of a local doctor who referred Bibi to Peshawar’s Dost Welfare Foundation (DWF) where she met Dr. Parveen Azam Khan.

“Bibi was one of our most critical and chronic cases with a long history of heroin addiction. Her story touched a chord, and since she was from an impoverished background with no one to visit her, except her son, our team would give her special attention,” the 81-year-old doctor — and recipient of the Tamgha Imtiaz, the country’s highest civilian award, in 2004 — told Arab News. What followed was 15 days of rigorous treatment, with constant monitoring and support extended by DWF, which treated Bibi free of cost.

“We also provided aftercare and follow-up services for almost 18 months after the completion of treatment. The patients attend relapse prevention sessions at the center and are contacted by our staff at least twice a month,” Khan said.

Since being established in 1992 as KP’s first drug rehabilitation center, DWF has treated around 2,000 people every year. However, only about 25-30 of those are women, according to Khan.

“It is very unfortunate that despite 22 percent of drug addicts being women, only 1 percent (of those women) opt for rehabilitation. This is due to social taboos and the fear of being ostracized by society,” she said.

Khan believes that the government should step in and devise a strategy to limit the spread of this social evil. She suggests supporting and allocating funds to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working for a reduction in demand for drugs as a priority.

“Drugs make individuals powerless. In this part of the world, women are already vulnerable, and drug-related issues are a social stigma, so people avoid talking about it,” she said, adding that it is essential to support and rehabilitate female drug addicts “as the foundation of an entire family depends on them.”

Bibi, for her part, says the treatment has offered her a new lease on life.

“For years, I kept my addiction a secret, hiding it from my family for fear that it might destroy the lives of my children,” she said.

In the time since her treatment, Bibi’s daughter has gotten married, and her son took a job at a factory to support the family.

“I hope I never go back to using drugs. Today, I’m finally free,” she said. “It seems as if a nightmare has ended.”


The art exhibition empowering women in Afghanistan to fight for their rights

Apr 13, 2020

Inside an art exhibition called Abarzanan (Superwomen) stones the size of pomegranates hover above a mannequin wearing a dress fashioned from a white burial shroud.

The display commemorates a young Afghan woman, Rukhshana, 19, who was stoned to death by village men in 2015. She had fled an arranged marriage to a much older man and eloped with a young lover in a Taliban-controlled district in western Afghanistan.

The Superwomen exhibition, created by photographer and artist Rada Akbar, honours eight trailblazing women in Afghanistan and the region – among them an ancient queen and a 10th-century poet – at a fearful time for Afghan women.

After 19 years of halting gains after the collapse of Taliban rule, a February agreement between the United States and insurgents has filled many Afghan women with dread. The agreement does not mention women’s rights but does envision a return of the Taliban to a future Afghan government after US troops withdraw.

That prospect adds urgency to the Superwomen exhibition, which explores the refusal of Afghanistan’s patriarchal society to acknowledge, much less respect, the achievements of courageous women.

“It’s not as if someone gave us the rights we have – we earned them,” says Akbar. “Now we face going backward with the Taliban, the enemies of women, art and culture.”

The exhibition is showing at Chehilsoton Palace in Kabul, the country’s capital. Each of the displays in the Superwomen show tells the story of a pioneer, and each features traditional Afghan artwork by female jewellery makers, embroiderers and calligraphers.

One piece represents Khalida Popal, 32, a soccer player who played the game clandestinely as a girl despite persecution by the Taliban when the group ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Popalzai later helped form the Afghan national women’s soccer team and led a movement that exposed sexual abuse and harassment by male officials.

Her story is embodied by a woman’s figure dressed in black. Three black-gloved hands clutch at her body.

One hand grasps a breast, one of its fingers shaped like a scorpion. Another hand, shaped like a snake, is wrapped around the figure’s womb. The third hand creeps over her shoulder.

Akbar says the hands represent oppression against Afghan women from three spheres – religion, politics and economics.

The figure’s dress includes a long black train that unfurls across the floor. Visitors have to decide whether to step on the material to reach the next display or to find a way to step over it. The train is smeared with footprints.

“We, Afghan women and our allies, are righteously enraged,” Akbar says at the exhibition’s opening ceremony. “It comes from generations of powerful men telling us to wait.”

Akbar, 32, fled the Taliban government for Pakistan with her family as a child. She returned to Afghanistan in 2002, the year after the US invasion toppled the Taliban.

Because women were essentially invisible under the Taliban, she says, “people assume women have only existed here for the past 18 years. That’s insulting.”

Akbar says Afghan women were expected to be satisfied with their incremental gains in education, the workplace and public life since 2001. But Afghanistan remained a suffocating, patriarchal society for women, especially in rural areas dominated by the Taliban, she says.

“We’re not victims – we’re champions,” she said. “We’ve fought hard for everything we’ve accomplished. But people expect us to be satisfied with basic rights, nothing more.”

Akbar is raising money to establish a permanent museum to recognise achievements by Afghan women. She said she has received approval from the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, to open the museum in a refurbished palace in Kabul.

Through the Superwomen exhibition, Akbar sought to honour the contributions made by Afghan women over the centuries, most of them erased in history books written by men. She says she had to dig deeply, for instance, to uncover the stories of an Afghan queen and an empress.

One exhibition figure represents Queen Soraya Tarzi, who reigned from 1919 to 1929. She fought for women’s education and opposed polygamy and requiring women to wear hijabs.

Another figure embodies Gawharshad Begum, a powerful 13th-century empress who championed artists and writers, including renowned female poet Mehri Herawi.

At least half of the exhibition’s visitors are men, says Akbar. “Most have been curious and open to listening and learning.”

One visitor, Mohammad Hadi, 25, says that even after more than 18 years of post-Taliban governance, “Afghan women still have so much to deal with.” He says Afghan men should fight alongside women for expanded rights.


Service and untold sacrifices: Women on the Covid-19 frontline in Malaysia


13 Apr 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — As a doctor and a mother, one of the greatest sacrifices that Dr Mina Khalil has had to make is giving up time with her child.

“For those who have children, they will understand how attached a baby is to their mother, or how often you need to nurse your baby.

“A doctor on call who is also a mother cannot do these things because they have to be at the hospital throughout their entire shift,” said the 36-year-old using a pseudonym.

Working hours for a doctor on call could last up to 36 hours straight. Although this varies between departments, a doctor is required to be on call up to six times a month.

On top of that, Dr Mina said if a healthcare staff is exposed to a Covid-19 patient, they are required to be quarantined for 14 days.

“That is almost 20 days you are away from your young child. It is very heart wrenching to know that you cannot hold your child or comfort them when they need you.

“A friend of mine had to be quarantined at home and cannot be in contact with her child. She had to pretend that she was at work; when, in actual fact, she was in a room in the house.

“She could only communicate with her child via video calls while awaiting her test results,” said Dr Mina who works at a hospital here. 

Dr Mina said many women healthcare workers go through similar ordeals — leaving their young child at daycare before heading to work.

“It is nothing like what the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s posters on ‘Kebahagian Rumahtangga’ suggest — which seem to summarise a woman’s life based on household chores,” she said.

“It’s tough and some women doctors go back to work after two weeks of confinement leave,” she said of those who are part of a Masters programme.

For Dr Susan Choo, who works in the main critical zone of the emergency department in a hospital here, that means she is required to don a full set of PPE (personal protective equipment) for more than 10 hours.

“Even when we are not treating Covid-19 patients, we have to remain in our PPE when treating pre-assigned non-Covid-19 patients,” said Dr Choo when contacted.

A full PPE set includes a face shield, head cover, apron, boot covers and waterproof gown. A face mask and gloves are also worn.

But because donning full PPE takes up a lot of time, Dr Choo said some women doctors and healthcare staff have resorted to cutting their hair short for easy maintenance.

“Because after seeing a patient (either suspected of contracting the virus or a confirmed positive case) we need to shower thoroughly from head to toe.

Even after four years of working as a medical officer in the emergency department, Dr M. Danusha said wearing a full set of PPE made of largely “non-breathable” protective material requires a lot of endurance.

“Plus, in the emergency department, we are always in some sort of PPE, just not the full works (before Covid-19 came about),” she said.

A pharmacist who only wanted to be identified as Ling said, as it is, women in Malaysia are facing a hard time trying to fight for equal pay and treatment in society.

“Looks like things have gotten worse. Not only that my profession has been downgraded, now my gender too,” she said when met at a pharmacy on Jalan Pahang here.

Ling is the only pharmacist on duty, on an unusually quiet day at the pharmacy. According to her, Jalan Pahang is no longer bustling with traffic in and out of Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

When asked if she is worried about her safety since the street is rather deserted, she said as a precautionary measure, only one customer is allowed into the pharmacy at a time.

As for Michelle Wong, 48, she travels every day from Rawang with her pharmacist son to Jalan Pahang to start work at 8.30am. 

“We have decided to stay open throughout the MCO because we still have regulars who need certain medication and they can only get it at our pharmacy,” she said, referring to the movement control order that is currently in place.

“I’m a mother even at work. I feel the need to make sure that my son is safe. That’s why I’m always seated here (at the cashier’s counter), where I screen people before sending them to the pharmacist, my son,” said Wong when met at another pharmacy on Jalan Pahang.

“Am I worried about the virus? Of course I am, but we take the necessary precautions and follow the guidelines recommended by the Health Ministry,” said Wong.

Several Bills, including the Sexual Harassment Bill, Anti-Discrimination Against Women Bill and anti-stalking laws, are scheduled to be tabled at the next Parliament sitting.


Priti Patel’s non-apology over PPE served its purpose – making you feel responsible for the government’s failings

Pragya Agarwal

1 day ago

After an anticipated return to the political mainstage after weeks of maintaining a low profile, it didn’t take long for Priti Patel, the home secretary, to find herself at the centre of controversy once again. At the Downing Street news conference on Saturday, after reports of the highest daily hospital death toll in Europe, she said: “I am sorry if people feel there have been failings.” This was in response to issues regarding the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff, after 19 NHS workers were confirmed to have died with coronavirus.

Make no mistake, this is not an apology. Far from it. In fact, it is more akin to a microaggression, where the intended person is made to feel that it must be their fault for feeling offended, hurt or upset.

Microaggressions also make people feel that they must be imagining things, or even overreacting (similar to gaslighting, which itself is a form of microagression). It apportions responsibility to the intended. Here, Patel uses this language to transfer any accountability from the government for their failings in protecting NHS workers on the front line by providing sufficient protection and side-stepping any scrutiny over coronavirus.

Microaggressions are a commonly used strategy to demean individuals belonging to a particular community. This kind of behaviour might seem inconsequential, but such microaggressions – communicated via verbal or nonverbal messages – are targeted at people based on their membership of a marginalised group.

In this way, they demean and devalue them, “othering” them, highlighting their inferior status and marginalising them even further. The act of microaggression is intended to make the other person feel less valued – Patel’s qualified apology has the same effect.

Most of the NHS workers that have died from the virus are from the Bame community, including the first 10 doctors, as well as the fact that a third of those in intensive care are from Bame backgrounds. Such figures indicate how little the current government values minority ethnic communities.

Such lack of compassion, and what can only be kindly termed as a veiled incivility, causes confusion, stress and anxiety. Individually, this statement might seem benign, but cumulatively, I believe they act like sort of low-grade microtraumas, with their associated stress and anxiety. They make the target individual or group doubt themselves, their instincts and their understanding of the situation, feeling confused and at the same time, completely dismissed and shocked.

Those who would like to point out that Patel is herself from an Asian background would do well to remember her actions and words on racial intolerance. She defended Boris Johnson over accusations of racism, despite his comments that Muslim women in burqas looked like “letterboxes” and evidence that Islamophobia rose by 375 per cent in the week after his comments.

Her points-based stance on immigration, targeting “low-skilled” and “low-grade” workers, and her insistence on pushing the immigration agenda through even as migrants prove to be among the most significant key workers has clearly shown that she subscribes to the ideologies that tend to work in the favour of discriminatory agendas, despite her skin colour. This is also the same Patel who claimed that there was no racism in Britain when Meghan Markle faced abuse from many sectors of the media and general population.

Yes, we can choose to ignore what looks like a seemingly minor comment, but research for my book Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias shows that such statements are dangerous and have a long-term impact on the mental health, as well as the morale of a community. Such actions can consume cognitive resources and lead to an increase in stress hormones. This is equivalent to being bullied, which wouldn’t be the first time that Patel has been accused of something like that.

This weekend, she has once again shown how damaging these microaggressions can be. By sending the signal that these “failings” have been exaggerated in our minds, the needs of those who are struggling the most risk being downplayed or ignored entirely.

This is how unconscious biases work in society. Biases manifest and are reinforced through language and words. To defeat them, they have to be called out by the media, as well as the general public. It is also more crucial than ever that we as a society take a hard look at our own internalised biases, acknowledge them, and take steps to minimise them.


Flour power: Bakery trains Pakistani women to rise to life’s challenges

April 13, 2020

LAHORE: The smell of warm, toasty bread emanates through the small waiting area of Go Flour bakery as Shamila Bukhari works through the ingredients to bake a fresh batch.

As an apprentice at the tiny eatery that is tucked away in a corner of Lahore’s upmarket Gulberg area, Bukhari is part of a growing tribe of women being trained in the art of “baking the world a better place,” its owner, Asma Yasmin Shah, told Arab News on Sunday.

“It’s necessary for more women to enter the workforce as skilled workers, for them to be financially independent, and to gain the respect they deserve from the wider community,” Shah said.

Since its inception in September 2019, Go Flour bakery has trained several women from Pakistan’s diverse socio-economic backgrounds and hopes “to empower and help them move into the working world with a hands-on skill, baking, in their pockets,” Shah said.

While its two trainers, master baker Akram Shafi, and professional chef Ahmed Cheema, are men, all of Go Flour’s employees — 10 permanent staff and 10 under training — are women between the ages of 19 and 50.

Bukhari, 40, said that she chanced on the bakery while looking at Facebook, and eventually messaged Shah to enquire about employment opportunities.

A few months after being hired as a trainee, Shah said that Bukhari was “quick to learn the tricks of the trade.”

If at first she didn’t know the difference between creaming, folding or beating, today she could blind bake — a technique where the crust of a pie/tart is baked without the filling — with ease.

“I’ve mastered making all kinds of bread, including multi-grain which is my favorite, both to make and eat,” Bukhari said, adding that employment allowed her to make the most of the ample time on her hands, especially with both her children grown up.

Shah said that the idea to set up Go Flour and provide a platform for women in Pakistan was her way of “giving back.”

“I wanted to help the women learn a skill so they could feel empowered and stand on their own feet and earn for themselves. The knowledge I picked up (over the years) inspired me to do something for other women,” said Shah, who is originally from London and moved to Lahore 20 years ago.

Detailing the experiences acquired in the London chapter of her life, she explained how she co-owned an Italian restaurant with her sister, which ultimately became a catalyst for her desire to see “more women in hospitality.”

While in London, Shah also volunteered at the Center for Better Health, an organization focusing on introducing people suffering from mental health issues back into the workplace.

It was there that she took on a project for artisan baking and learnt new techniques, eventually training other participants in the program.

Armed with a new-found experience, she joined forces with Cheema — her long-time friend and now business partner — to set up Go Flour.

Today, the organization prides itself on being the only bakery in Lahore to make artisan bread that is “free of additives and enhancers,” while “championing the cause for women’s empowerment.”

“Many, many women have come and gone. A lot of them for shorter stints as, unfortunately, they have family (childcare/in-laws) or transport issues. But some have gone on to open their businesses, one started a canteen at a college here in Lahore and another, a former trainee, started her online baking business,” Shah said.

It is something Bukhari, too, aspires to do one day.

“I have gained so much confidence and independence and make my own money now. Next, I hope to open a small bakery some day soon,” she said.


Ministry releases policy brief exploring gendered impact of Covid-19 in Pakistan

April 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Human Rights on Sunday released the Gendered Impact and Implications of Covid-19 in Pakistan, a policy brief analysing the potentially disproportionate impact of the outbreakon women and girls.

Prepared with UNWomen and the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), the brief explores specific vulnerabilities facing women and girls as the coronavirus spreads and makes broad policy recommendations to mitigate immediate risks and prevent the exacerbation of existing gender gaps.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the ministry said the brief delves into the larger political, social and economic impact of Covid-19 and presents an analysis of the potentially disproportionate impact on women and girls with a focus on thematic areas such as education, health, labour, forced participation, time use and mobility, financial empowerment and gender-based violence (GBV).

The brief emphasises reducing the impact on girls’ education through tele-school initiatives and increased public and private partnerships to develop learning content and increase accessibility of learning materials to children through computers, televisions and smartphones.

Prolonged school closures due to Covid-19 are adversely effecting education and could exacerbate gender inequalities in educational attainment. Moreover, it outlines specific measures that could be utilised to encourage girls in rural areas to return to school once the situation normalises.

Another recommendation contained in the brief is that of ensuring the continuation of basic and reproductive health services for women. It highlights the importance of encouraging women to visit hospitals and clinics for pre and postnatal checkups as well as keeping them informed about prevention protocols and the conditions in which they should seek medical help and care in order to avoid complications during delivery.

The brief indicates that women already face many hurdles in accessing healthcare and are also likely to have heightened exposure to the virus as the burden of caring for the ill often falls on them. The Covid-19 response must take the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women into consideration.

It also highlights the importance of devising mechanisms for providing regular support to the more vulnerable segments of the labour market and building economic resilience amongst women.

Most women in the labour force are part of the informal low wage market, home-based workers or work for small and medium size enterprises and thus suffer from low income security and lack of access to safety nets and social protection in times of crisis.

Targeted cash and loan programmes as well as access to financial services was a critical area of intervention to mitigaterisks and the impact of Covid-19 on women in Pakistan. Such efforts were already underway through the Ehsaas programme and the Prime Minister’s Covid Relief Fund.

With regard to strong evidence that suggested that emergency measures instituted to cope with epidemics increased the risk of domestic abuse, the brief recommended that GBV services be integrated in response efforts as essential services.

Restrictions on mobility warrant adapted solutions to GBV service provision such as a shift towards remote and technology-based support, it said.

In the statement, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari emphasised the importance of ensuring access to GBV services is not interrupted.

“Women are more vulnerable during a lockdown because they often have to live with abusers and may find it difficult to even call for help. The Ministry of Human Rights has ensured that our helpline and women crisis shelters remain operational during the crisis, with specific protocols in place to prevent the spread of the virus. We are also working towards ensuring that the police, health workers, and social workers are responding to specific and critical needs of women during this time,” she said.

Human Rights Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha urged stakeholders to adopt a gender-integrated approach to the Covid-19 response at multiple levels.

She said: “This policy brief and gender analysis should serve as an essential resource document to guide stakeholders to effectively address gender inequalities emerging in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan.”

The brief highlighted the importance of including female leadership in policy making and response efforts. Representation from women commissions and women development departments should be ensured in decision-making bodies and gender parity should be promoted in the recruitment of staff and volunteers for COVID-19 response teams.

It reminded stakeholders of the need to generate sex disaggregated data and primary micro-level research required for effective policy making, as the lack of disaggregated data hinders targeted and effective relief response in times of crisis and humanitarian emergency.


Coronavirus Fallout Worse for Pakistan Women Than Men Bailout Package for Women Entrepreneurs Demanded

April 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) on Sunday said coronavirus fallout is worse for women than men, therefore the vulnerable women should get special attention of the government. Women comprise the majority of health workers who are on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic who deserve a salary raise while school closures have particularly affected them as they bear the whole responsibility for childcare, said Samina Fazil, founder President IWCCI. In a statement issued here today, she said that women are facing income loss, beauty parlours and boutiques have been closed, millions of maids have been laid off, and hundreds of thousands of teachers etc. have been sent on forced leaves. She said that many women are low-wage and part-time workers facing gender pay gap while those who are running their businesses depend on exhibitions and middlemen as the majority cannot afford to have a shop. Housewives are facing household budget cuts and increased domestic violence due to problems linked to the lockdown, she added. She said that most of the items women sell in the market is not seen as a necessity, but more of luxury amid an economic slowdown which has resulted in financial constraints for the businesswomen. Samina Fazil noted that the economy needs women, and women need equity and protection, therefore the State Bank of Pakistan should reschedule loan repayments, announce interest-free loans for women entrepreneurs and take all other steps needed to empow er them amid the crisis to help them remain afloat. She said that financial security space is shrinking for the businesswomen, therefore the government should announce a bailout package for them without further delay. The country needs a robust social protection system in place to save the poor during emergencies as women and children are always worst hit in such situations, she demanded.




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