DAWN, June 9, 2012
Pakistan working for Womenâ€™s empowerment: Sherry
WASHINGTON: Pakistanâ€™s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has said the country is witnessing a great deal of good things like political and societal efforts towards protection of womenâ€™s rights.
She made it clear it is not just a place about conflict as often wrongly refracted through the lens of ongoing war in the region.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman was speaking at a reception she hosted in honor of prominent Pakistani womenâ€™s rights advocate and documentary filmmaker Samar Minallah, whose distinguished efforts were recognized by Vital Voices Organisation this week.
US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman, Coordinator for US non-military assistance for Pakistan Ambassador Robin Raphel, Chairperson Vital Voices Board Susan Davis, American journalists, writers and Pakistani-American women leaders were among those who attended the event.
â€œConflict indeed brings oppression to people but Pakistan is not all about conflict â€“ it is a place where a great deal is happening at the governmental and civil society levels,â€ she said at a time of lopsided coverage in parts of the Western media through the lens of Afghan war.
The Pakistani envoy referred to the democratic governmentâ€™s efforts to give women their rightful place in the society, citing several legislative achievements and the fact today the speaker of the National Assembly and foreign minister of Pakistan are both women.
But women getting elected as parliamentarians or serving at elite government positions is just one aspect of the change taking place in Pakistan, noted the Ambassador, who has been a longtime champion both as a writer and a parliamentarian â€“ for rights of women, minorities and vulnerable segments of the society.
â€œWomen like Samar are greatly helping to bring change at grassroots level,â€ the ambassador said, while paying tribute to Samar Minallah for her endeavors.
While Pakistan still has to go far to ensure empowerment of women at all levels of the society, there is a lot to celebrate as well, the ambassador said.
She highlighted to the gathering the fact that the recipients of top American honors this year are both women, Samar Minahllah and Sharmeen Obaid Chinnoy, the Oscar winner.
This achievement also underlines the creative work the Pakistani women are doing in several fields of art and professions and speaking up for womenâ€™s rights in cities as well as remote parts of the country.
Ambassador Sherry hoped that more people, not just women, would be recognized for their work, and therefore provide an opportunity to build bridges and bring together people to look to a future envisioned by martyred Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and also espoused by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In her remarks, the Cambridge University-educated Samar Minallah, touched upon her documentary work, which strives for an end to discrimination against women on the basis of traditions like Swara still practiced in certain parts of the country.
She hailed Ambassador Sherry a great representation of the vibrant civil society of Pakistan.
She also observed in her remarks to the gathering that people â€œshould not try to impose change because change always comes from within.â€
Chair of Vital Voices Board Susan Davis said Samar rightly deserved the 2012 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award since she has emerged as an extraordinary voice for womenâ€™s rights in her country. She also thanked the Pakistani ambassador and praised her wholehearted commitment to the cause of womenâ€™s rights.