Recently, speakers at #HackThePad: Women Health & Hygiene Conference called upon individuals to solve women health and hygiene problems through entrepreneurship, technology and advocacy in Pakistan.
The conference was organized by iCube, an organization working for women empowerment through entrepreneurship, in collaboration with Peace University, USA, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Motorway Police, and Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) here at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentarian Services (PIPS) on Monday.
The conference highlighted gender equality, the rights, and wellbeing of girls and women, and how addressing and taking care of these issues is intrinsic for countering the gender disparity that is entrenched into our society.
Pakistan has largely been a society that doesn’t focus on women specific health issues. For example, menstrual hygiene is considered as a taboo topic, even in moderate and educated circles.
Zainab Chaudhery, Co-Founder of iCube, and the organizer behind #HackThePad, opened the event by calling the speakers, Sundas Waheed Co-Founder iCube, Ziad Khan Director Peace university, USA, Abid Suleri Executive Director SDPI, Romina Khursheed Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Climate Change to formally open the conference.
Sundas Waheed Co-Founder iCube talked about recognizing women’s rights as human rights and the need of championing these personally instead of putting all the burden on policy makers and the government. After unfolding the agenda and the format of the conference sessions, from talks to panels to workshops to special sessions the floor was handed over to Zainab, the Master of Ceremony.
Speaking on the occasion, Romina Khursheed Alam, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Climate Change and member of Young Parliamentarian Forum (YPF) said women health has a direct bearing on the generations to come and that these issues need to be taken seriously. She said it is about time to break social taboos and raise voices that can be heard. She stressed the need for raising awareness at the grass roots levels to create an impact. Women in Pakistan, she said, are living a life of fear and subjugation in many forms at many different levels, and cannot discuss and talk about the problems they face, so there is a need to break this vicious cycle, she added.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, SDPI Executive Director, said the nation is preparing for the next general elections and political parties are making promises in their respective manifestos. He suggested that political parties should include women health and hygiene as an election promise in their respective manifestos.
“We cannot achieve health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unless we empower our women by giving them their due rights, providing them education and involving them in the decision-making process.”
Ziad Khan, Director, Peace University, USA said it is unfortunate that women health and hygiene related issues are not talked about or addressed the way they should be and the fact that something as natural as breathing is considered taboo requires all of us to introspect. He said around 97 per cent of the women are victims of malnutrition in Pakistan. Pakistani society is going through a formative phase where we have a chance and a responsibility to solve problems through entrepreneurship, technology and advocacy as a personal initiative, he added.
Dr Mujeeb ur Rehman, Inspector General, Railways Police, said we have to change our attitude and actions towards the women and should ensure the provision of an enabling working environment where our women can harness their true potential. He said a woman with poor health impacts negatively upon whole family and subsequently impacts the whole society.
Khalid Mahmood, Additional IG, Motorway Police, talked about the need to revamp organizational structures to include provisions for women and their unique role in the society. He highlighted the current situation of women in law-enforcement agencies and discussed about the reforms Motorway Police has made to facilitate women. He also talked about the need to adopt international best practices for all other organizations to incorporate.