Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence
Date: Wednesday, December 5, 2018
UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, started her first official visit to Pakistan today, as part of her travels during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The visit aims to bolster the gender equality agenda in the country.
Ending child marriage in Mithi, Tharparkar District
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka calls upon the community to end child marriage in Mithi, Pakistan. Photo: UN Women/Asif Ali
Making Mithi, the capital of one of Pakistan’s most impoverished districts, the first stop of her visit, Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called upon the entire community to end child marriage and pledge their commitment to improve the lives of girls and young women.
“A girl who is married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled. We know today that when a girl is married she misses out on her education. And if she misses out on her education, she is going to be poor. As parents, we do not want our children to be poorer than us. In every generation we want the next generation to be better and better and better,” said the Executive Director during the community dialogue with over 300 residents.
“I want to commend the women, the girls and the boys of Mithi for coming together and talking to each other like this; for raising your hand, standing in front, being united with your leaders,” she added.
Members of the Mithi community pledge to say no to child marriage. Photo: UN Women/Asif Ali
The meeting was also attended by government officials, media professionals and local leaders. Men from the community – heads of the families, religious and traditional leaders, senators, legislators, and male members of the press – pledged to say ‘no’ to child marriage.
Starting today, Mithi is set to be an example of a ‘zero child marriage’ village in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 sets the legal age for marriage at 16 for females and 18 for males. In April 2014, the provincial Sindh Assembly unanimously adopted the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, making marriage under the age of 18 (for men or women) a punishable offence. However, speaking at the event, Minister for Women Development for the Province of Sindh, Syeda Shehla Raza said that more public awareness and oversight by relevant authorities are needed to ensure adherence to the law.
Youth dialogue in SZABIST University on ending sexual harassment
The next stop for the Executive Director was SZABIST University, the country’s leading technological university, for a dialogue with youth. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka called upon the university administration to show zero tolerance to sexual harassment.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka participates in a panel at SZABIST University on sexual harassment. Photo: UN Women/Farid Khan
“One of the best practices of leaders is to show no tolerance, whether it is the administration of the university, of a company or of a political party, to sexual harassment. When leaders set the tone from the top, it really helps to generate a way of dealing with such issues,” she said.
In the wake of cases of sexual harassment on university campuses and realizing the need of academic institutions to be safe spaces for scholars, the Executive Director engaged with the faculty and students.
“The most important contribution of the #MeToo movement is to give voices to women, whose voices and pain have been invisible,” she added.
This year’s UN theme for the 16 Days of Activism is, Orange the World: #HearMeToo, to amplify the voices of survivors and activists.
“We need to join hands and exercise the power of solidarity to promote and coordinate efforts to advance the full realization of women’s rights, to tell them how valuable and precious they are; that they are to be treated with dignity and respect; that they should disregard anyone who demeans or devalues them,” said Ms. Nasreen Haque, Vice President of SZABIST Karachi Campus.