Gilgit - Baltistan

Issues of women in Hunza-Nagar debated

By: zulfiqar Ali Khan

Hunza, October 27: Although violence against women in Hunza and Nagar valleys are negligible however the population of seventy thousand women is still deprived of basic health and education facilities in Hunza and Nagar valleys. This was reported in a consultative workshop organized by ASR Resource Center Lahore with the collaboration of United Northern Areas NGOs (UNAN). The workshop was part of the consultative meetings aimed to develop a comprehensive report about the status of women in Gilgit-Baltistan to be presented in United Nation as part of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  About 25 representatives of village-based social welfare organizations participated the workshop.

The representatives of ASR briefed the participants about the CEDAW convention and said that it is for the first time to include the status of women in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir in national level report.

The representatives of local organizations said that accessibility is main issue as compare to social and cultural barriers for female education and employment. They reported that the highly scatted Hunza and Nagar valley lack schools, colleges and vocational institutes for women. They said literacy rate of women in Hunza is high due to the efforts of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) but the government is failed to provide opportunities for women.

They said that there is not a single gynecologist for a population of about seventy thousand women in Hunza and Nagar valley.

They said Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has a great contribution for the development of women in the region.  Representatives of women organizations also highlighted the issues of inheritance and the preference of parents for son over daughters.

Parveen Ali Jan, member, District Council Gilgit said that improvement in education has also improved the status of women in the region. She said health facilities are really poor in the region and there is lack of awareness about balance diet particularly during pregnancy. She said nutritional problems have had a negative impact on pregnancy and lactation of the women.

Focus group meetings were also held with women groups, government officials, political representatives and media personnel.

Women organizations have however criticized for not engaging the real representative organizations of women in the consultative process.

Pakistan signed the CEDAW convention during 1996. By signing this agreement Pakistan is ethically and legally bound to take all necessary measures to end discriminate policies and laws and discourage all traditions that hinder women’s progress and equality with men. Pakistan has hardly been able to introduce some cosmetic measures in this regard. The situation further gets worse in FANA, FATA and AJK. The government makes no effort to extend the implementation of international agreements to these oppressed areas.  The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are already facing a problem of citizenship. These aspects are further affecting the women more severely. ASR has thus, for the first time, initiated this process in Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK so that CEDAW could be implemented in these oppressed areas.

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  1. How interesting!!!!!!!
    The worthy NGO, “ASR Resource Center Lahore” held workshop on issues of women in Hunza-Nagar, but the photographs depicts that only 3 women and about twenty men are invited or attended the workshop. This gives a clear picture of how interested are they in issues related to women.

    It’s good that they have reported low crime rate agianst women. Hunza and Nagar being the civilized societies are having much more respect for women than any part of the country and the world. It can be proudly said that women of our area are as participatory as men in the overall development.

    However, some questions disturb here.
    How the worthy NGO can address issue related to women not giving representation to women in their workshops? Are they following some special instruction not to show up women in workshop and showing that women are not the part of mainstream of Hunza. Is it to show some interest groups that women are deprived of rights in Hunza and Nagar? Is it the case that the worthy NGO trying to draw conclusion by not including women in workshop? If this is the motive, they have succeeded in doing this.

    As far as the education and health is concerned Hunza is having much more educational and health facilities than any part of the country, though may not be at par with international levels. Apart from government and AKES, there are 23 privately run schools and colleges in Hunza. Among them, Hunza Public School & Degree College, SEDNA School & Degree College, Hunza Model School, Dawn Public School, GCCE, Hasegawa, Al-Amin and many others are imparting education irrespective of gender for more than a quarter century (some new of course, but innovation is that old). Nagar is having the same but lesser model of education.

    Aga Khan Health Services has a fabricated network of basic health facilities all over Hunza and Nagar. Its referral system is one of the best in the whole country. Day to day announcement about health is another feature of AKHS.

    In presence of above facilities, how an NGO can claim that Hunza-Nagar women are having issues, of course they have issue but of different kind. To correct the statistics, Hunza and Nagar have a population of slightly more than one hundred thousand. Let’s say both areas have population of 120000. Does the NGO mean to say that 60% of population consists of women? (Referring to their claim of seventy thousand women being deprived of facilities). As a matter of fact female population makes the 49% of whole population (Senses 1998). Out of this population more than 80% have access to education and almost 90% have access to health facilities. It shows that the NGO is merely playing with the statistics.

    As for as representation at national level is concerned, NGO’s are not the right platform to discuss this issue.

    At the end some suggestion for the worthy NGO.
    Please don’t keep the stakeholders, in this case women, out of the stream.
    Consult come reliable organization, like KADO, before claiming about POOR CONDITIONS.
    Leave, “We are consultants so we know all”, attitude aside.
    Don’t stake your credibility by hollow claims (like the one above).
    Highlight the political issues at a political platform not the NGOs.

  2. Dear Sher Baz,

    Thanks for highlighting the issue of the real representation of the women of Hunza and Nagar in the process. This you can also see in my news reporting “Women organizations have however criticized for not engaging the real representative organizations of women in the consultative process”. I was myself there for the coverage of the event as well as to represent KADO there.
    I was surprised that the real stakeholders were not there and I myself highlighted this during the sessions. There was only one female from a social welfare organization of Aliabad. Representatives of WOs, women business groups, women union councilors, religious leaders, political leaders, representatives of AKDN agencies, Ismaili councils and many more were lacking. Even I think the situation of women in Aliabad is not as of the women of Chipurson, Ataabad or Mayoon. The regional level representation was also not there.
    If you want to see the hardship of the college students of Upper Hunza , Shinaki, Attabad, Sarat, then you need to visit the hostels/rented houses in Aliabad, Karimabad and Gilgit. You also need to meet their parents that how hardly they are managing their both ends. Yes you have also counted the names of community-schools but again the question for majority is accessibility and finance.
    Similarily, there are just few lady health visitors in the highly scattered isolated valleys. In Gojal, There is just a male doctor in Gulmit and similar is the position of karimabad and Aliabad Hospitals. What about the people of Shimshal, Misghar, Chipurson, Attaabad, Sarat and others during emergencies in the presence of a very weak transportation system. There is only one general physician in Aliabad AKHS Health Center.
    There is not a reliable statistics of women population in Hunza-Nagar. However, according to a recent survey of KADO the population is around 30,000. Many of the families temporarily or permanently out of station are also missing from this. So the combine population can be counted around 65 to 70 thousands. However, the debate is not merely on statistics.
    The situation in Hunza is far better than other parts of Pakistan even comparable with many developed areas but is not as glorious as we NGO people are presenting during our reports and during the visit of foreign delegates in Baltit Inn hotel at Karimabad. I had the opportunity to visit many families in Karimabad, Altit and other parts of Hunza, just few kms from the shining markets of Karimabad where families are living in worse conditions but on the other side we are beating the drums of prosperity.

    This issue, I think, is really debatable and thanks alot for the begining.

    Zulfiqar Ali Khan

  3. Now you have identified the real issues of women. This is not only the issues of women, men are suffering as well. The facilities of education are present but concentrated in the business or opportunity hubs. The same is with health facilities.
    Whatever you have wrote is based on ground facts, rather I’d say harsh ground realities. Any outsider coming from no where can’t solve our issues, this is the local brain which can workout a longlasting strategy. Educational infrastucture (private)was started by locals and its prospering now. This model can be implemeting at various levels. There is no lacking of motivated persons who are willing to devote thier time to educate coming genrations.
    HERP was a model of educational fabrication, since it was dependent on external aid, its operations are almost ceased to exist. It can be revived with the help of local people. KADO can be a help in this regard. KADO has expertise of every sort, I am sure its high-ups will never hasitate to come forward in re-forming HERP or such kinds.

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