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Campaigns

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Ending violence against women (VAW)/gender-based violence (GBV) is a key area of our work at Shirkat Gah. Many initiatives focus on raising awareness around the multiple facets of VAW/GBV to bring it to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. We work to change ground realities for women in their communities and advocate for appropriate laws and policies that help overcome it. Our activities involve a large number of people from all backgrounds.

 

One of the most disturbing issues in the fight for equal rights for women is the issue of land rights. In Pakistan few women, especially in rural areas, inherit land. Even when they do, it is usually half of what their brothers inherit. In rural areas, women are generally discouraged from owning and controlling land. Ownership of land by women is discouraged through social intimidation, They are told they must dedicate themselves to the service of God by giving up worldly possessions, mainly land inheritances, or they are killed in the name of “honour” if they protest. Women are also forced into arranged marriages within families so that the men can control the property.

 

Shirkat Gah has extensively researched women’s land and inheritance rights and has compiled a paper on the topic, which is available to be read here (HYPERLINK TO STUDY in the publications section). This paper has been accepted as the country chapter for Pakistan as part of the Women’s Inheritance and Property Rights (WIPR) Project (HYPERLINK). This project functions under the Women Reclaiming and Redefining Culture project. We have also reviewed the Sindh Government’s 2008 scheme to distribute state land among landless women and haris, the first scheme of its kind targeting landless women.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND LIVELIHOOD

To understand the impact of climate change on women, Shirkat Gah conducted field based research in four villages of District Shaheed Benazirabad in Sindh. We wanted to find out how women perceive climate change and how it has affected them, and communicate it to policymakers. The findings were not unexpected.

Women contribute to the finances for the running of their families in rural areas. They are also responsible for raising children, cleaning their homes, cooking, working in the fields, collecting fuel wood and walking great distances to bring fresh water for home usage. They deal with natural resources on a regular basis and this is why they are the ones most impacted by climate change and environmental degradation. It adds to their sense of dispossession. Additionally, ever since the availability of free fuel wood has stopped, women are being forced to use dung cakes and dried cotton stalks as fuel to make food and heat water. This is causing many eye infections and other health hazards.

 

Increased temperature and changing weather patterns have negatively impacted crop cycles and yields, which push farmers to use pesticides excessively. The frustration and the anger generated from these losses is largely taken out on women. Women who work in the fields also see a decrease in their wages due to lesser opportunities of farm work. In this context, Shirkat Gah has initiated awareness activities in various communities across provinces that make women aware of their vulnerability in the face of climate change. Natural resource management and sustainability are exemplified in our “ChangaChulha” (fuel efficient stoves), fruit tree plantations, organic vegetable gardens and other such campaigns.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) have now been accepted as one of the most important aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals. With the United Nations specifically including them in the post-MDG agenda, Shirkat Gah’s meaningful advocacy and awareness work highlighting different aspects of SRHR in Pakistan is more important than ever. As part of our SRHR  work,  the Women’s Health and Rights Advocacy Partnership, (WHRAP), promotes advocacy for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of marginalized women in South Asia. It brings together civil society organisations, specifically organisations led by women, from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to find evidence and advocate for change in laws pertaining to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In 2006 – 2010, WHRAP reached out to stakeholders across these countries to:

  • Help grassroots women to understand their rights and demand accountability;
  • Increase the responsiveness of healthcare providers and health systems;
  • Achieve greater visibility of sexual and reproductive health and rights and maternal health issues; and
  • Understand the monitoring role being played by the media.

WHRAP built the capacity of 160,000 women in monitoring health systems and demanding their rights and changes in the health systems with more confidence.

As part of this project, Shirkat Gah formed 40 groups of young women across three provinces – Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, focusing on women’s reproductive health. Forty introductory orientation sessions were held in which 956 women participated.

CAPACITY BUILDING

Shirkat Gah believes in continuous transfer of knowledge and empowering the people we work with through trainings and capacity building sessions. Our field trainings have empowered hundreds of women to become master trainers under our Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) projects and under our Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratization (WELDD)(HYPERLINK: weldd.org) programme. They are respectively referred to as Champions and Leaders in their communities. We regularly engage activists, civil society organizations and other stakeholders in thematically cross-cutting capacity building sessions as well that are based on the thematic areas of our work. The focus areas for our trainings are:

  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • Personal status laws;
  • The need for important legal documents (birth certificates, death certificates, nikahnama, CNIC ec)
  • Human rights, civic duties, responsibilities and rights
  • Gender;
  • Organizational management; and
  • Climate change and environment

 

At Shirkat Gah, we support and empower Community Based Organizations (CBO) for improving local governance, making state functionaries more responsive to people’s needs and holding them accountable for providing adequate civic services. For this reason, Shirkat Gah’s District Advocacy Groups (DAG) function in 13 cities across Pakistan to work as liaison offices, training centers and local hubs where local CBO representatives, media personnel, lawyers, minorities, youth and government duty bearers can meet to discuss women/development issues of the local population at village and Union Council level to district, provincial and national level.

The presence of DAGs has helped Shirkat Gah staff train hundreds of women, men and children under SG thematic areas of Rights, Governance, Environment and Livelihoods e.g. women’s health, legal rights, livelihood and essential official documents (National Identity Cards, birth, marriage and divorce registration and land rights of women), culturally justified violence against women, early age marriage etc.

Presently, 13 DAGs are operational in the following cities:

Punjab

Muzaffargarh, Vehari, Nankana Sahib, Multan, Kasur

Sindh

Shahdad Kot, Hyderabad, Sukkur

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Swat, Charsadda, Mardan, Peshawar

Balochistan

Jaffarabad