8th March is observed as International Women’s Day throughout the globe to celebrate women along with their accomplishments in different fields. It is a day when women, all around the globe, are placed at equal footing and given a platform.
This year, the day was centered on the theme of #BalanceforBetter, calling for gender equality all across the globe. The day is aptly put to use as a peace movement that ensures that this message is well received and heard by the world.
Department of Peace & Conflict Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad, observed this day by organizing a one-day seminar for its students and faculty, centering around ‘Gender Sensitization for a Dignified Work Environment,’ in addition to informing the attendees on the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010. The event, with the aim of creating sensitivity among the participants and letting them have an understanding regarding gender equality, along with no tolerance for any kind of harassment, such as discrimination at work place, formally began with the historical significance of the day, detailing the efforts made by influential women as well as ordinary women from all walks of life.
The key speaker brought in for the event was Ms. Maliha Hussain. Ms. Hussain is the Executive Director at Mehrgarh: A Center for Learning, with over twenty plus years’ experience of working on women’s issues in Pakistan and the United States of America. Ms. Hussain works closely with the Federal and Provincial government along with various private sector organizations, in order to facilitate and monitor effective implementation of the workplace harassment law and the nationwide implementation of anti-sexual harassment legislation; the two laws that were passed by the Government of Pakistan in the beginning of 2010.
The event was conducted in two segments, beginning with providing the basic foundation to understanding sexual harassment along with the varying nature of harassment that is present in a workplace. Ms. Hussain comprehensively elaborated on the social misconduct present within the society that tends to overlook harassment as a whole and tends to dissuade a victim from raising their voice. The session was mainly interactive with partakers questioned on their own basic knowledge of sexual harassment as well as with their own understanding of the distinct differentiation between myth and fact. The understanding of the participants paved a general way forward for the bout. Ms. Hussain went on to highlight the conspicuous myths that are present and effectively used not only as a cover-up but also as an excuse to brush away the matter in the heavily dominant patriarchal society, clearing it with hard hitting facts. The first half ended with shedding light on the general way forward that is currently followed in Pakistan.
The second half of the stretch focused around informing about, the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010. The basic objective of the Act is to create a safe working environment for women, which is free of harassment, abuse and intimidation with a view toward fulfillment of their right to work with dignity. The Act is also built upon the principles of equal opportunity for men and women and their right to earn a livelihood without any fear of discrimination. Ms. Hussain elaborated on the entire crux of the 2010 Act passed by the Government of Pakistan. She highlighted the salient features of the Act such as the establishment of an Inquiry Committee along with their duties, the role of the employees as well as the management and the role of an Ombudsperson. Ms. Hussain also touched upon the points of the official document in the context of educational institutions, underlining the protection provided to students.
The explanatory session was brought to a summarized end with a documentary titled, I Was Not Alone, which highlighted ten years struggle by Dr. Fauzia Saeed, that eventually culminated in the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010. The visuals aided in description along with bringing into focus the long ranging efforts that were poured in by not only influential personalities but activists alike for the cause of providing women with a protective shield — a covering that allows them to freely live and work in their everyday lives. This was accomplished, as shown in the documentary, through the passing of the 2010 Act during the era of President Asif Ali Zardari.
With the conclusion of the documentary, the floor was declared open for the participants to question Ms. Maliha Hussain on the topic at hand, where the students of Faculty of Contemporary Studies aptly showcased their keen interest in not only clarifying their misconceptions but also to bring to light their own understanding of sexual harassment and gender equality. The entire process of Q & A was successful as it brought to focus the knowledge as well the level of understanding of the idea of gender equality in youth.
The seminar was wrapped up with retired Ambassador Fauzia Sana providing her concluding remarks in regards to the day as well as the event that was organized.HH
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