Sindh is dormant on women’s development
A report released last year detailing cases of violence against women in the era of Covid-19 found that Sindh was responsible for 27% of all such cases from Pakistan. Thus making the region the second most perilous province to navigate for women and girls in the country.
At the same time, despite the perceived increase in cases of crimes against women, it appears that the provincial department for women’s development has remained dismal in its performance; do little to allay the fears of its female population. In addition to this, the department also appears to have failed to use the development budget on women related programs and projects for the past few years after 11 months of inactivity.
The most obvious example of this is the current fiscal year’s development budget that will end at the end of this month.
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According to data from the Sindh finance department available from The Express Tribune, work on about 90% of programs has not been launched despite the release of funds. The use of zero percent of the funds reflects the lack of activity on the side of the ministry.
“In this budget, a sum of about 34 million rupees has been earned for the establishment of a women’s resort in Karachi. The finance department has also released eight million rupees. But not a single penny has been spent on the same thing. We don’t know where that money went,” a senior finance ministry official said.
The data also revealed that the women’s department has retained Rs 26 million in the current budget for improving the livelihoods and welfare of home-based women workers (FHBW) in the informal economic sector of Sindh.
This project is part of the sustainable development goal that talks about empowering women, but nothing has been implemented yet. “About Rs 13 million has been paid to the women’s department but the progress in utilization is nil,” the document said.
In addition to this, there is a budgetary provision for the establishment of a planning and monitoring unit in the women’s development department for which five million rupees are also allocated, but the utilization of the same is zero percent.
During this financial year, the ministry was also supposed to spend nine million rupees on complaint cells in Sanghar, Kamber Shahdadkot, Khairpur, Shikarpur, Badin, Ghotki, Naushero Feroz, Thatta, Umerkot, Dadu, Matiari and Tando districts. Allahyar of Sindh. But not a single penny has been spent on it so far.
“Complaint cells are just a formality. Instead of setting up proper complaint cells with trained staff, the department has done so in every SSP office in different districts. Residents don’t know how to approach and complain. They haven’t launched any awareness campaign about it. Also, there is an active complaints cell in Karachi, but it too is understaffed,” an official said.
When approached, an official working in the women’s development department said the zero percent utilization status was due to the delay in releasing funds from the finance department. “Similarly, four million rupees of development funds are earmarked for a women’s resort in Shaheed Benazirabad, but everything seems to be in vain,” the official commented.
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The Sindh Commission on the Status of Women was also established after an act passed by the assembly in 2015. The commission was established for the promotion of social, economic, political and legal rights of women as provided for in the constitution of Pakistan and in accordance with international declarations, conventions and treaties. It is made up of 21 members and a chairman.
The commission was also mandated to inspect prisons, sub-prisons and places of detention where women and girls are detained, and to make appropriate recommendations to the authorities. It should examine policies, programs and other measures to be taken for gender equity and the empowerment of women, among others. Yet despite the enormous bragging, the commission has also remained rather dormant, with little effect on the ground.
Women’s rights activist Advoacte Rubina Brohi, who happens to be a member of Sindh’s commission on the status of women, agrees that more work is needed to tackle women’s issues. “The situation is better now compared to the past. Various WhatsApp and social media groups have been started with the presence of IGPs and senior police officers from the respective districts where the commission representatives share the details of the incidents with the women, and we see greater accountability and positive change overall,” she said.