Caretaker Minister for Human Rights Khalil George has said that people from all groups, religions and faiths, and identities are equal citizens and rights and inclusion of marginalized groups has been one of the priorities for the government.
“We all must remember that various laws and policies are testament to the government’s commitment for inclusion of the vulnerable groups,” he said while speaking at the concluding session of the two-day Aawaz II Learning Forum, organized by the British Council, Peace & Justice Network and Omar Asghar Khan Foundation in Islamabad.
Andrew Bowden says Aawaz II provides a model where govt, civil society and communities can work together on key issues
Aawaz II launched the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign by disseminating messages through radio, social media and community meetings in 37 districts of Punjab and Pakhtunkhwa. Federal Ombudsperson Fauzia Viqar remarked that the women and other groups in need should reach out to duty bearers not only for redressal but to make government institutions accountable to improve access to service delivery.
In his inaugural statement, Group Head of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in Pakistan Andrew Bowden commended that Aawaz II had provided a model where the government, civil society and communities can work together on important issues such as gender-based violence and interfaith harmony.
Aawaz II team lead Dr Yasmin Zaidi highlighted that more than 40,000 volunteers and youth were working with local communities to address gender-based violence, child marriage, and social exclusion. Senior Program Manager Affan Javed shared that the British Council believed in inclusive and participatory behavior change approach for sustainable development.
Dr Yasmin Zaidi says volunteers working with communities to address gender-based violence, child marriage, and social exclusion
Provincial Ombudsperson of Pakhtunkhwa Rukhshanda Naz, Additional Secretary of Social Welfare, Special Education and Women Empowerment Department Muhammad Farooq, Secretary of Provincial Commission on the Status of Women in Punjab Nabila Javaid, NADRA Inclusive Registration Director Reema Aftab, Punjab National Commission on Human Rights member Nadeem Ashraf and experts on the rights of women, religious minorities, women with disabilities and transgender persons also shared their point of view.
Speaking on the occasion, a person with disability from Sahiwal said that as member of Aawaz II Forum she was invited by district office of Social Welfare Department for discussions and addressing issues in the area. Transgender rights activist Nayab Ali applauded the inclusive approach of Aawaz II for including transgender persons as members of the forum and facilitating their linkages with the government officials for redressal of their issues.
Women rights activist Mumtaz Mughal said that community groups such as village forums were important for strengthening leadership of vulnerable persons, including women and also useful for spreading messages of women’s rights, and social cohesion. Participants shared that Aawaz II village and district forums were being recognized by local duty bearers and issues of women, religious minorities, transgender persons, and people with disabilities were now prioritized.
People from vulnerable groups are invited in meetings and government-led initiatives at district level. Representatives from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, British Council, government departments, civil society and community leaders from 37 districts attended the event and contributed significantly in the discussions around various themes of Aawaz II. It is pertinent to mention here that the Aawaz II program is managed by the British Council with support from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.