A report released last year, detailing cases of violence against women during the Covid-19 era, found that Sindh was responsible for 27% of all such cases originating from Pakistan. Making the region the second most perilous province to navigate for women and girls in the country.
At the same time, despite the perceived increase in cases of crimes against women, it appears that the provincial department for the development of women has remained dismal in its performance; doing little to allay the fears of its female population. In addition to this, the department also appears to have failed to use the development budget on women-related programs and projects in recent years, after 11 months of inactivity.
The most obvious example is the development budget for the current fiscal year which will end by the end of this month.
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According to data from the Sindh Ministry of Finance available from The Express Tribune, work on about 90 percent of the programs has not been launched despite the release of funds. The use of zero percent of funds reflects the lack of activity on the ministry side.
“In this budget, around 34 million rupees was earned for the establishment of a women’s complex in Karachi. The finance department also released eight million rupees. But not a single penny was made. spent on it. We don’t know where this money has gone, “said a senior finance ministry official.
The data also revealed that the Women’s Department has kept 26 million rupees in the current budget for improving the livelihoods and well-being of Homeworkers (FHBW) in the informal economic sector of Sindh.
This project is part of the Sustainable Development Goal which talks about empowering women, but nothing has yet been implemented. “About 13 million rupees have been paid to the women’s department, but progress in use has been zero,” the document said.
Apart from this, there is a budgetary provision for the establishment of a planning and monitoring cell in the women’s development department for which five million rupees is also allocated, but the use of this is zero percent.
During this fiscal year, the ministry was also supposed to spend nine million rupees on complaint cells in the districts of Sanghar, Kamber Shahdadkot, Khairpur, Shikarpur, Badin, Ghotki, Naushero Feroz, Thatta, Umerkot, Dadu, Matiari and Tando Allahyar of Sindh. But not a single penny has been spent on it so far.
“Complaint cells are just a formality. Instead of setting up appropriate complaint cells with trained staff, the department did so in each SSP office in different districts. The locals have no idea how to approach and file a complaint. They have not launched any awareness campaign on this subject. In addition, there is an active complaint cell in Karachi, but it too is understaffed, ”said an official.
When approached, an official working in the women’s development department said the zero percent utilization status was due to the delay in releasing funds from the finance department. “Likewise, Rs four million development funds are intended for a women’s complex in Shaheed Benazirabad, but all seems in vain,” commented the official.
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The Sindh Commission on the Status of Women was also established after the passage of a law by the assembly in 2015. The commission was established for the promotion of social, economic, political and legal rights of women, in accordance with to the constitution of Pakistan and in accordance with international declarations, conventions and treaties. It consists of 21 members and a president.
The commission was also mandated to inspect prisons, sub-prisons and places of detention where women and girls are held, and to make appropriate recommendations to the authorities. It should examine policies, programs and other measures to be taken for gender equity and the empowerment of women, among others. Yet despite the formidable soliciting, the commission also remained rather dormant, with little effect on the ground.
Women’s rights activist, lawyer Rubina Brohi, who happens to be a member of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, agrees that more work is needed to tackle women’s issues. “The situation is better now than in the past. Various WhatsApp and social media groups have been launched with the presence of IGP and senior police officials from respective districts where commission representatives share details of incidents with women, and we see greater accountability. and overall positive change, ”she said.