Beijing + 15 in Pakistan

The 15 – year review of the Beijing Platform of Action in Pakistan was undertaken as a collaborative programme by Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre and the ASR Resource Centre to bring together national, regional and international processes.

The Beijing Platform of Action for Equality, Development and Peace was adopted in 1995 at the Fourth UN World Conference on Women. This document served as a guideline though which a Manifesto and blueprint for the empowerment of women was presented. The Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) addresses twelve critical Areas of Concern from a women’s perspective with strategic objectives and proposed actions. It entails a sustained and long-term commitment from governments requiring them to develop national plans of action (NPAs). Structured within the framework of equality, development and peace, the NPAs are devised at national levels to create equality between men and women as a fundamental human right, to remove obstacles and to ensure women’s active participation in public and private spaces by making them equal partners in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making.

The process of reviewing the progress on the implementation of BPfA at regional level has been an ongoing one. The continued and persistent lobbying and advocacy by women’s movements and civil society organisations of the Asia-Pacific region has been relentless. Despite these efforts, women and girls continue to face enormous challenges particularly in the sectors of health, education and agriculture. Democracies in distress, political crises, unstable governments, frequent military rule, a sharp rise in extremism, the violation of human rights with impunity, violence against women and discriminatory customary practices impact adversely on the security, livelihoods, displacement and well-being of women. Additionally, women now also have to contend with consequences of inter and intra-state conflicts fuelled by globalised militarization.  The vested interests of international finance agencies and UN bodies play a major role in impeding development endeavours. The combined forces of a market driven economy, the ecologically destructive activities of foreign corporations and climate change negatively affect sustainable development and nutritional security. Fifteen years after governments of the region committed to the BPfA the situation of women remains largely unchanged. In the face of these challenges, the women of the Asia-Pacific region stand united and demand of their respective governments equality of citizenship; policies and programmes focused on sustainable development; security in the home and work place; education and health facilities; livelihood security; political leadership and participation, and an end to conflicts in the region.

At the national level, Shirkat Gah and ASR have played a lead role in the Beijing Conference and the subsequent review processes. ASR’s involvement with UN World Conference on Women goes back to the World Conference held in Nairobi in 1985. Along with their numerous local partners, both organisations continue to actively lobby and advocate for the Government of Pakistan to deliver on their commitments on the BPfA, the MDGS, CEDAW and other international instruments ensuring the progress of women.

Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre – a leading women’s rights organisation and an NGO in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations – has been closely involved in the Beijing process since the preparatory committee meetings of the UN and the drafting of Pakistan’s official National Report for Beijing in 1995. Shirkat Gah (SG) initiated and led the NGO Beijing + 5 and Beijing + 10 reviews. The former, through broad based consultations, resulted in the production of the Pakistan NGO Review: Beijing + 5. Shirkat Gah also facilitated NGO delegations to South Asia and Asia Pacific NGO Forums, to UNCSW and UNGASS sessions and organized a wrap up meeting at the end of the process. At the time of Beijing + 10 it produced Women’s agenda in the UN: To Beijing and Beyond – a guide for taking forward the Beijing agenda, participated in Government of Pakistan consultations on Beijing + 10 and co-authored the civil society report on Beijing + 10 – Pakistan Ten Years into the Beijing Platform for Action: A Civil Society Perspective on Some Critical Areas of Concern.

In anticipation of the 54th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (February-March 2010) where the 15-year implementation of the BPfA was to be reviewed, SG got actively involved in the regional preparatory processes as a Steering Committee member of the Asia-Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW): the Asia Pacific NGO Forum in Manila organised by APWW, a High-level Intergovernmental Meeting in Bangkok and a South Asia Women’s Consultation held in Delhi by the South Asia Women’s Watch (SAWW).

The ASR Resource Centre likewise is a leading women’s rights organization and has been involved at the national, regional and international processes since the 3rd World Conference in 1985. As a key member of the Asian Women’s movement, it was involved in the preparation of the Asian NGO report and participated in CSO and UNESCAP planning processes. At the same time ASR was responsible for the alternative country report which was presented in the panel on Asian Feminism in Nairobi and in presentations in panel subthemes on media, publishing, alternative film, theoretical feminism and women and religion. In 1992, it came together with several women’s groups in the Asian and Pacific region to form the Asia-Pacific NGO Working Group which worked both with the UN processes and with the women’s movement towards the 4th World Conference to be held in Beijing in 1995. At the international level, ASR was involved in this capacity with the UN NGO preparations and with both the UNESCAP and NGO processes in the region. As a member of the NGO Working Group it was responsible for organizing the series of panels on Women and Politics and Women and Armed Conflict in the Asian and Pacific NGO Women and Development Forum in Manila in November 1993, and subsequently was a key player in the 2nd Ministerial meeting on women and development in Jakarta in June 1994, to lobby and work with the Asia Pacific Draft Plan of Action for the Fourth WCW.

At the national level, ASR took the lead and organised 46 workshops on various issues identified by the WCW mainly with CBOs, NGOs, women in the creative arts, writers, poets, media personnel, trade unionists, and those working within the educational system. This process which spanned over three years (pre, during and post Beijing) culminated in a National Pre-Beijing multidimensional conference with over 600 participants in the conference and over 2000 who came to the cultural activities. The post Beijing multidimensional conference held in October 1995 had 1200 participants with a further 3000 participating in the concurrent cultural events. ASR facilitated 25 participants to attend the WCW in Beijing and organised 4 workshops/plenary in its own capacity. Nighat Khan was the only Pakistani to be invited to make a presentation in the NGO Forum Plenary.

Nighat Khan was a member of the drafting committee of the National Report for the 3rd WCW in 1995 and ASR was a founding member of the Asia Pacific Women’s Watch and participated in regional meetings until 1998 and was involved in the Beijing + 5 process and participated in the South Asian and Asian and Pacific in Nepal and Thailand respectively in 1999, and in the UN review in 2000.

The Shirkat Gah / ASR Collaborative Programme 2009 – 2010

Since both SG and ASR have played leading roles in UN processes especially with regard to the World Conference on Women it was decided that in the interests of being more dynamic and inclusive, they would work towards an integrated programme building on their individual and collective strengths. The decision was to make a collaborative proposal to integrate the regional and international processes with the national ones already being undertaken by them. This would ensure that there would be no duplication and there would be a direct linkage of the national with regional and international processes including consultations, both prior and post the UN review in New York in 2010.

Working towards strengthening the national and regional position on Beijing + 15, ASR and Shirkat Gah formulated a programme for as wide a consultative process as possible to enable a collective reflection ad review on the national implementation of Beijing commitments, along with their intersections with other international agreements. With the objective of providing a comprehensive overview of the background of Beijing Conference to younger activists and new organizations, ASR and Shirkat Gah designed a prolonged process beginning with a nation-wide survey of civil society organizations encapsulating the achievements, challenges and emerging issues for the period 2004 -09 and a two-day National Consultation of NGOs on B + 15 (“Weaving Wisdom, Confronting Crises, Forging the Future”) to organizing delegations, to the APWW coordinated Asia Pacific NGO Forum in Manila (October 2009), the South Asia Women’s Watch organised consultation in New Delhi (December 2009), the NGO Forum and UN CSW meeting in New York (February 2010). While UNIFEM (now part of UN Women) provided financial support for the international component of the meetings the national consultation and the wrap up meetings were organised by SG and ASR from their programme funds.

Special care was taken to ensure a mix of experienced and fresh activists in these delegations to ensure the participation of a cross section of women activists, member of CSOs/CBOs and youth from all four provinces as speakers/panelists, as members of drafting committees, plenary chairs and organizers of parallel workshops. A commemorative poster and report of the National Consultation were widely shared at these forums.