PERMANENT MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS
MRS. ZOBAIDA JALAL
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION,. WOMEN DEVELOPMENT
'SOCIAL WELFARE AND SPECIAL EDUCATION OF PAKISTAN
SPECIAL SESSION OF TIDE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
FOR BEIJING + 5 REVIEW
On behalf of my delegation, I wish to congratulate you on your election as the President of this very Special Session. I also wish to thank Ms. Christine Kapalata, Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee and her colleagues for their hard-work during the preparatory process for this session.
2. The Fourth World Conference in Beijing provided a major impetus to international and national efforts aimed at the advancement and empowerment of women. This Special Session will reinforce and reinvigorate the process that we collectively initiated five years ago.
3. Over the past half a century, the women rights movement has made important strides. Today, there is universal recognition that the status and role of women in society is intrinsically linked to economic progress and prosperity of nations. It is now accepted that no country can achieve and sustain prosperity if nearly half of its population remains neglected and divested from the national development process. Despite these positive trends, we still have to go a long way for the realization of the objectives of the Beijing Conference.
4. We live in a world marked by diversity of cultures, races, beliefs and religions. This diversity indeed is our greatest strength. It is imperative that we respect each others views, religious beliefs and value systems, and avoid stereotyping of any religion. Misplaced notions of superiority of one value system over others and attempts to impose the norms of one society on another defeat the very principle of freedom of choice and the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. However, we also recognise that certain core values are universal and must be respected by all:
5. We in Pakistan believe that our religion establishes ideals and norms which are exemplary for a social vision to ensure dignity, security, equality and full participation of women in the economic and political mainstream of the national life. Islam proscribes discrimination against women and fully protects their fundamental human rights. It gives full recognition to the role of women in the economic and social progress of nations. Based on Islamic precepts, our constitution guarantees the status and dignity of women and forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste or sex.
6. My government believes in translating the rhetoric of women's rights into reality and to this end, has undertaken a number of substantive initiatives. Thus, we have seven women ministers holding important portfolios ranging from health and education to law and justice. On the institutional level, we have strengthened the Federal Ministry and Provincial Departments for Women Development and established a permanent National Commission on the Status of Women, to oversee, coordinate and accelerate national efforts for the empowerment of women and elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The Federal Ministry and Provincial Departments are being assisted by Advisory Boards comprising representatives of women organizations on all policy and administrative. issues. Other steps include reform and revision of laws discriminatory against women, reservation of 30% seats for women in national/provincial legislatures and 50% representation at the gross roots representative bodies besides increasing the quota for women candidates in public sector employment. Measures have also been taken to initiate prosecution in cases of domestic violence, address sexual harassment at workplace, generate awareness against early marriages, improve condition of women prisoners and strengthen family courts fur effective remedy for marital disputes.
7. Existence of violence against women in every society remains a painful reality of our times. We must reinforce our efforts to eliminate this evil. The incidence of violence against women and girls becomes even more acute in situations of armed conflicts. My heart goes out in sympathy and solidarity with women and girls who suffered and, in some cases, continue to suffer most egregious human rights violations and physical abuse in places like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Jammu and Kashmir. We, therefore, note with satisfaction that the statute of International Criminal Court has designated physical abuse of women as a crime against humanity. The perpetrators of such heinous crimes should be awarded exemplary punishments.
8. In Pakistan, we regard any form of discrimination or violence against women and girls as an unacceptable criminal offense. We are also conscious that apart from being a human rights issue, it has enormous social and economic costs for the society as a whole. The Government of Pakistan, therefore, has taken a number of measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Recently the Chief Executive of Pakistan declared so-called `honour killings' as pre-meditated murder. This has been done to ensure maximum punishment for culprits of such abhorrent crimes.
9. 1 would like to take this opportunity to urge our partners in other parts of the world where `honour killings' are depicted as `crimes of passion' to adopt similar rigorous legal measures.
10. Since the Beijing Conference, we have focused our attention on reviewing and consolidating policy and strengthening institutional and administrative actions with a view to:
- Strengthen capability of every woman and girl child in Pakistan to enable their active,
visible participation in the political process, and effective decision making from household
to the highest-levels of national public affairs;
- Make adequate provisions to expand, enhance and sustain access of women and children
to the best possible healthcare services, education and skill development, housing and
social welfare and rehabilitation of the disabled, through grass roots community
- Evaluate and quantify the role and contribution of women in production and services,
measure the disparities in access to productive resources and determine the incidence of
feminization of poverty;
- Take immediate steps to rectify imbalances in resource allocation to the social sector by
undertaking investment in development, providing adequate social security safeguards to
protect weaker segments of society particularly women and girls against negative impact
11. Universal literacy and quality education are key to the empowerment of women and girls. The objective of education for all has been one of the priority areas in our National Plan of Action as a follow-up to the Beijing Conference. Other priority areas have been health and access to productive resources. To achieve these objectives, we have taken major initiatives under Social Action Programme which focuses on expansion of female literacy through conventional and non-conventional education, skill training, market absorption through entrepreneurial advice, provision of micro-finance and renewal of curriculum and teaching methodologies for creating greater gender sensitivity. The Social Action Program pays special attention to reduction in maternal mortality, maternity care and mal-nutrition through a life cycle approach to women's heath care and a closer integration of health and population welfare activities. We are particularly concerned with the feminization of poverty. Therefore, in our poverty reduction programme, which has been strengthened by diversion of Rs. 7 billion from the defense budget despite prevailing tensions in the region, we have taken targeted actions to address this problem.
12. We regard the family as a source of social cohesion and stability. It plays an important role in reducing incidence of poverty through traditional support system and provides the crucial link between the individual and society as well as state. We, therefore, fully incorporate this important role of family in our development planning.
13. Despite all these initiatives and efforts, we face formidable challenges like other developing countries, in the realization of goals of Beijing Conference. Some of these are associated with the process of globalization which has largely worked to the, disadvantage of developing countries. Others pertain to resource constraints owing to declining commodity prices, lack of access to international markets and inequitable trading regimes. We believe that international cooperation and solidarity was never so vital than today to launch collective efforts to achieve sustained economic growth, sustainable development and peace in the 21' century. Mr. President, 16f us pledge at this historic moment to join hands to reinforce endeavours to realise the vision of a society in which every women and man can live in equality, prosperity and peace in the New Century.
I thank you, Mr. President.