Today, we join the international community in celebrating International Women’s Day. It is an occasion to celebrate the progress made in empowering women, and to reaffirm our collective resolve for redoubling efforts to further advance respect for women’s rights.
Pakistan fully supports this year’s theme of International Women’s Day: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” During the testing times of the COVID-19 pandemic, women in Pakistan demonstrated remarkable resilience and leadership, effectively contributing to our nation’s response and recovery. Women stood at the front lines, as health care workers, primary caregivers, innovators, human rights defenders and community organizers. Under the guidance of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan’s landmark Ehsaas emergency cash program to counter the negative socio-economic impacts of the pandemic is being ably led by a woman.
The Constitution of Pakistan upholds the equal status of women. We have made significant advancements in empowering women politically, economically and socially, including through progressive legislative, policy, institutional and administrative measures. Ensuring broad-based inclusion of women’s rights in every sphere and at all levels is one of the key priorities of our Government. At the international fora, Pakistan’s voice has always resonated in favour of women empowerment and gender equality. During the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pakistan’s delegate, Begum Shaista Ikramullah, played an active role in the inclusion of Article 16 for the equal rights of men and women to marry and to found family.
Despite our socio-economic challenges, the number of women in key leadership positions has risen steadily in Pakistan. We have had a female Prime Minister, the youngest Nobel Prize winner, the Governor of the State Bank, the Speaker of the National Assembly and numerous women Ministers, Ambassadors, Judges and high-ranking civil servants and diplomats. Our women fly fighter jets, serve as UN Peacekeepers, and one of them is now a three-star General in the military. As a nation, we honour and salute their role and contribution to the society and State of Pakistan.
As we commemorate this day, we cannot forget the plight of women in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Over the last seven decades, they have endured the worst forms of human rights abuse and oppression at the hands of Indian occupation forces including sexual violence, rape and molestation. These human rights violations have been extensively documented by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the two Kashmir reports of 2018 and 2019 as well as in various communications and public pronouncements of UN Special Procedures Mandate Holders. The international community must take cognizance of these serious crimes and hold India accountable.
The road to women empowerment and gender equality is a long one. Pakistan’s direction, commitment and actions are clear. We will continue to resolutely pursue the full realization of women’s rights, mindful of the challenges, but resolved to further build on our achievements.