Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Pakistan: Human rights? or wrongs?

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) launched its annual report. While the findings of the report painted a gloomy picture of the state of human rights in the country, the highlights of the report suggested that the unprecedented milestone of a democratically elected government completing its tenure offered hope that, given the chance, the people of Pakistan could extract themselves from the quagmire.

At least 14 journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2012.
According to Press Freedom Index, Pakistan was one of the deadliest countries for journalists for the second year running, with a ranking of 151 out of 179 countries.
Freedom of association
At least 356 political activists were killed in 2012 in Karachi alone on account of their party affiliation.
In the 2012-13 fiscal, the allocation of funds to the health sector further declined to a mere 0.2 percent (Rs. 7,845 million) of GNP.
There were around 9 million drug addicts in Pakistan and the number was on the rise. Two million of the addicts were aged between 15-25 years and the number of female addicts was around 200,000.
Pakistan ranked sixth among the 22 high-risk tuberculosis countries.
About 1.6 million cases of malaria occurred annually.
One out of every nine women in Pakistan faced the risk of breast cancer which resulted in 40,000 deaths every year, higher than in any other country in Asia.
Law and order
police encounters were reported from across the country in 2012 in which 403 suspects were killed.
drone attacks took place in FATA in 2012, compared to 74 in 2011. Estimates of casualties varied between 240 and 400.
terrorist attacks took place across Pakistan in 2012, claiming the lives of 2,050 people and causing injuries to another 3,822.
Shia Hazaras were killed in Balochistan alone.
people died in ethnic, sectarian and politically-linked violence in Karachi in 2012.
Jails, prisoners and disappearances
There were a total of 75,444 detainees in Pakistan’s prisons against the authorised capacity of 44,578.
There were 1,289 juvenile prisoners in jails across the country, and an overwhelming majority of them was under trial.
Freedom of thaought, conscience and religion
At least 72 dead bodies were recovered from Balochistan of individuals who had gone missing in previous months.
583 people were killed and 853 injured in 213 incidents of sectarian-related terrorist attacks and sectarian clashes.
As many as 20 Ahmadis were killed on account of their religious identity.
In Karachi, at least six churches were attacked, two of them within a period of 10 days in October.
Pakistan stood at number 52 in the world ranking of countries according to the percentage of women in parliament.
At least 121 schools were targeted by militants opposed to education, especially girls’ education.
In the budget for 2012-13, primary education got Rs 71.6 billion and secondary education Rs 69.4 billion – too little to realize MDGs.
out of every 25 primary school-age children were expected to fail or drop out of school before the fifth grade.
Around 10.9 percent of schools in Pakistan lacked proper buildings, 37.7% lacked boundary walls, 33.9% had no drinking water facility, 36.9% lacked toilets, and 59.6% schools had no electricity.
Pakistan stood at number 52 in the world ranking of countries according to the percentage of women in parliament.
According to UNESCO, at least 5.1 million Pakistani children were out of school, 63 percent of whom were girls.
As many as 913 girls and women were killed in the name of honour in 2012. These included at least 99 minor girls.
74% of the girls married off in Charsadda and Mardan districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2012 were under 16.
National Policy on Climate Change was approved by the cabinet 
World Health Organization deemed water from Keenjhar Lake, a protected wetland under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, unfit for consumption.
Over 2,500 trees were cut down for development projects.
A marginal decline was observed in infant mortality and under five year mortality rates in 2012 but Pakistan still lagged behind other South Asian countries.
cases of polio, a disease that afflicts only two other countries in the world, were reported from 28 districts of Pakistan.
Pakistan had the world’s second highest number of out-of-school children aged five to nine years.
At 2.8 percent of its gross national product (GNP), Pakistan’s expenditure on education was the second lowest in South Asia.
During the first six months of 2012, 1,573 incidents of child sexual abuse were recorded.
Almost 10 million children were engaged in child labour.
Nothing was done to bring home a quarter of a million Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh since 1971.
registered and one million unregistered Afghans still remained in Pakistan
The monsoon floods and drought in Tharparkar forced over a million people from their homes.
At least 757,996 Pakistanis (163,102 families) remained internally displaced by conflict.

Source:  http://tribune.com.pk/story/531314/in-pakistan-human-rights-or-wrongs/

HIV/AIDS: Pakistan has one of Asia’s highest HIV prevalence rates

Pakistan is among the 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific which houses a majority of the people infected with HIV, according to a new report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Neighbouring India and China are also on the list, which includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Launched at the 2011 International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), the report, titled HIV in Asia and the Pacific: “Getting to Zero”, found that more people than ever before have access to HIV services across the region. But most countries in the region are a long way from achieving universal access goals for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
According to UNAIDS, HIV prevalence in Pakistan nearly doubled from 11% in 2005 to 21% in 2008. The greatest source of a spread in the virus was use of drug injections and the UNAIDS says that an estimated one in five people who inject drugs in Pakistan are HIV-positive.
Across the region, the report states, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and populations at higher risk of infection remain rife. About 90% of the countries in the region retain punitive laws and policies that effectively prevent people living with HIV from accessing life-saving HIV services.
Data suggest that a significant proportion of new HIV infections within key populations are among young people under the age of 25. In most settings, HIV prevention programmes are failing to sufficiently reach young people most at risk.
More AIDS resources urgently needed
The AIDS response in Asia and the Pacific is underfunded, the report found. Pakistan, it states, is among the five countries that funds the bulk of its HIV response from domestic sources but many countries in Asia depend heavily on foreign funding, particularly for the provision of antiretroviral therapy.
Increased investment of domestic resources, especially in middle-income countries, is critical for the ongoing regional response to HIV, says UNAIDS.
“Getting to zero new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific will demand national responses based on science and the best available evidence,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel SidibĂ©. “HIV programmes must be sufficiently resourced and solidly focused on key populations. Investments made today will pay off manifold in the future.”

Source:  http://tribune.com.pk/story/240379/hivaids-pakistan-has-one-of-asias-highest-hiv-prevalence-rates/

The father of taboos

Being young and being a woman can be a handy combination, especially in my line of work.
I wear jeans and shalwar kameez with equal comfort and frequency. I do not use any make-up or perfume at work. I smoke publicly and frequently, but responsibly towards others. I have the qualification and demonstrated commitment for the work I am doing. My work requires meeting total strangers and having meaningful conversations with them. I talk openly and fairly, and listen objectively. I get total attention and trust, even veneration of my subjects, almost like I am their mother – the smart, youthful, professional, confident, smoking, and attentive mother they never had. In short, I am the kind of psychologist whose subjects open up most willingly about things they wouldn’t want their closest buddies, partners and especially fathers to know.
I work for charities and donor-funded projects to do with eradicating child abuse in Pakistan. I do get a lot of exposure to abused children but that is another subject for another time. The bulk of my working time is spent with adults, and of my own interest, mostly men. I meet them in small and big groups, in the office or in a public place and we talk about the one thing most important to parents: how to keep our kids safe.
The objective of my job is to learn from and return to the society. I work with entire communities but my best learning has come from men. Women may be lax in their strategy and execution but they have a vested interest in preserving and nourishing the child. They are my natural allies. It’s the man who is so spectacularly ambivalent on this subject. He knows there is abuse in the society he lives in but he finds talking or reading about child abuse distasteful. He knows kids are being molested and abused in his locality but he will insist upon watching over his daughter all the time, leaving the son to face the street realities. And if his son does go through sexual abuse, he’ll use everything in his power to stop it from becoming known to others, or he might die of shame.
I had no idea how big a deal male rape is. Men are creators and victims of a culture where man is essentially the giver and woman the receiver. An abuser, as much as a protector, is seen as a he-man because they are both doing the manly thing: giving. Women fit the passive victim profile just as men are only expected to do the manly thing. When males become victims of sexual abuse, it’s therefore a double shame – surviving abuse as a human, just like women do, and being treated as a receiver, a she-male. The latter is by far more damaging of the two. It takes the air out of his long and stiff male ego. It’s the ultimate humiliation that marks the survivor as a stamped slave of the abuser and the laughing stock of other men and boys, sometimes for life.
There is an old and well-known joke in men’s circles that I recently heard and found revealing of male psychology towards sodomy. Two old men are caught having sex. The concerned sons of both of them rush to the police station and ask for details of the incident. The one whose father was found to be on the receiving end of the act, is devastated. He pleads with the police not to register the case but is told this is not possible. He then offers a hefty bribe to the policeman: ‘If you must write the report, make my father the one on top’.
This is the reason you never hear of male sexual abuse, even when female abuse is being reported, and condemned, in ever increasing numbers. I hear it all the time though. The case of a male abused child is more unlikely than a girl’s to be reported and recorded, and yet, one third of the raped/sodomised/killed children last year were boys. Other forms of abuse, that are much more widespread and much less reported in case of boys, include touching, fondling, kissing, oral penetration, exhibitionism, and showing or taking photographs of naked children.
I hear it from adult males more than boys though. They tell me about their school teachers and Quran teachers, uncles and neighbours, aunts and strangers, who molested or tried to abuse them. They tell me of the rampant molestation in crowded places and in the queues for paying utility bills. They tell me of the impotent rage, burning frustration, loss of trust in elders and the loss of capacity to love. They tell me of a male-dominated environment in which sexually harassing a younger or weaker or prettier boy in public is a norm. Growing up with some kind of exposure to abuse is considered a necessary rite of passage. You have to survive abuse to become a man.
A majority of survivors turn into child abusers. Research establishes that at least six out of 10 abused children go on to abuse others – through sexual means or physical or psychological violence. This self-perpetuating and multiplying phenomenon makes our society ever more tolerant and hopelessly resigned to abuse; more so with males than females.
What cannot be empirically stated is the size of the problem. I have been employing an unscientific but personally beneficial method of quantifying male abuse during my stays in the communities – and by ‘communities’ I don’t mean slums. In Islamabad’s terms, my work is spread from the I to E sectors and France Colony in between.
First, I explain to the group, the range of behaviours considered abusive and that it can be physical, emotional, verbal or even psychological. I don’t get surprised any more when grown boys look genuinely puzzled when they are told what they are going through is actually abuse. They have been conditioned from a very young age to accept sex as normal, even fun activity, but one that requires utmost discretion. Then, I ask them a question that needs to be answered with a yes or no, and to deposit the folded piece of paper in a basket. There is no way for anyone to know what anyone else has written. After giving them assurances of privacy and telling them that my colleagues and I present there will also be participating in the exercise, I ask the question: Have you been abused, at any age, in any way mentioned above?
Women, without much fuss, write ‘yes’ in 95 per cent cases. Men come in two distinct groups. There are a couple – more in Punjab and Pakhtoonkhwa – in every group who loudly protest at being asked a stupid question and then write the ‘no’ answer in full view of others. In my opinion, they are not merely abused, they are bruised and possibly still bleeding. Of the rest, around 80 per cent answer in ‘yes’.
I have done this exercise for many years and along the length and breadth of Pakistan. Allowing for vanity on part of my respondents and error of judgment on my part, it is safe to deduce that almost all women and a vast majority of men – rural and urban, rich and poor, illiterate and university graduates – have been molested, if not violently abused as children or young adults. We are a nation of parents who have been child molesters, or the molested child, or both. More worrying is our refusal to see that now our children are being raped and molested. The two are linked.
Until I can dispassionately analyse the abuse I suffered, recognise the symptoms of psychological damage it’s done and seek remedy, and until I can face my perpetrator with inner strength, I cannot exorcise myself of the ghost of abuse much less save mine or someone else’s child. As a quiet spectator, I am just being an agent for perpetuating abuse.
Acknowledging the presence of abuse of a girl and boy child in our society, in our neighbourhoods, in our homes, in our own lives is only the first but essential step in our journey to make our children safe, healthy and happy. I’ll keep counseling the abused children in my care, but frankly, the solution lies with adults, especially men. Until they heal their own wounds of abuse, they will not only fail to see abuse around them, they might also find themselves participating in it and taking the cycle of abuse to the next generation.

Source:  http://dawn.com/news/1032079/the-father-of-taboos

Monday, August 26, 2013


Originally, people had rights only because of their membership in a group, such as a family. Then, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the city of Babylon, did something totally unexpected—he freed all slaves to return home. Moreover, he declared people should choose their own religion. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing his statements, is the first human rights declaration in history.
The idea of human rights spread quickly to India, Greece and eventually Rome. The most important advances since then have included:
1215: The Magna Carta—gave people new rights and made the king subject to the law.
1628: The Petition of Right—set out the rights of the people.
1776: The United States Declaration of Independence—proclaimed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
1789: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen—a document of France, stating that all citizens are equal under the law.
1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the first document listing the 30 rights to which everyone is entitled.

Read more at:  http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights/background-of-human-rights.html

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations (UN) came into being in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II.
The stated purpose of the UN is to bring peace to all nations of the world. After World War II, a committee of persons headed by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wrote a special document which “declares” the rights that everyone in the entire world should have—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today there are 192 member states of the UN, all of whom have signed on in agreement with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Where Do Universal Rights Begin?
"In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

Read more at:  http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/introduction.html

What Pakistan can learn from the world to protect its rape victims

All of us sat before our computers and our TV screens in the past year to see the different cases (the high-profile Stuebenville, Ohio rape trial, the India gang rape case in December) that had grabbed headlines all over the world. This brought back into action public discussion about rape and the corresponding legal protection for its victims.
Recently, in what was perhaps a very positive move against sexual violence, the British police arrested a man due to his online threats against a feminist campaigner, Caroline Criado Perez, after she succeeded in her campaign to get Jane Austen’s picture on a UK bank note. His threats made to Perez via Twitter went as: “This Perez one just needs a good smashing up the **** and she’ll be fine”“Everyone jump on the rape train > @CCriadoPerez is conductor”
Labour MP Stella Creasy was also attacked when she came up to Perez’s defence with twitter troll threatening her.
“@stellacreasy I will rape you tomorrow at 9pm….shall we meet near your house…”
Perez and Creasy decided to continue being vocal against these threats of violence as they could materialise. This speaking out sparked an online movement, #shoutingback, with over 30,000 people signing a petition for Twitter to introduce a ‘report’ button against future threats of sexual violence. The violator was arrested on July 28, 2013 and Twitter announced that they were introducing a ‘Report Abuse’ button within tweets in the UK after pressure from the public to take action.
Contrast this to how we treated Mukhtaran Mai, Dr Shazia and countless other women who spoke out against the horrific crimes that were committed against them. Many believed that Mai’s global campaign created negative energy not understanding that international attention would only have pressurised our government to take action with national conversation often insinuating that she was ruining Pakistan’s image around the world.
And the hate did not just end there.
In what was perhaps a jarring example of how unfair rape victims have it in our country, the Lahore High Court cited ‘insufficient evidence’ in its decision to acquit five out of six of the men who had been arrested earlier. Mai appealed their decision, only to have the Supreme Court again acquit the accused in 2011. Failing domestically she tried to speak out on an international platform and was then again criticised for creating negative propaganda. President Pervez Musharraf, even admitted on his personal blog that fearing Pakistan’s negative image, he restricted Mai’s movements in 2005 by placing her on the Exit Control List which prevented her from attending conferences abroad.
Perhaps, we can learn a little bit from our neighbour India. The Delhi rape trial that horrified the world and sparked a national movement is currently making legal progress. India has also faced great international and domestic backlash for the Delhi gang rape case but the Indian populous and government did not shirk the issue by instead turning its attention to the negative press it got internationally. While many from its society made the same gross insinuations saying that ‘she brought it upon herself’ and ‘this is why women should stay inside their houses’, reflecting the backward thinking that exists everywhere, the case was still catapulted into the legal limelight as people took to the streets to pressurise the government to take necessary action. Despite previous rape trials taking years to absolve, a verdict is expected soon.

Read more at:  http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/18386/what-pakistan-can-learn-from-the-world-to-protect-its-rape-victims/

Women’s empowerment and literacy: Have we underestimated the Northern areas?

The people of Northern Pakistan do not just reside on a higher altitude; in fact they are above us in many ways. They are healthier, wealthier and wiser.
The northern areas of Pakistan, in addition to being one of the most beautiful places on earth, house some of the most brilliant people in our country (some of whom I’ve had the privilege to meet). Although I have had many friends from this area, I came abreast with their true potential and capabilities about six months ago, when I attended a residential youth camp with participants from all over Pakistan.
A considerable number of participants had their roots in the northern areas. Their array of talents ranged from academics and social work to sports and even politics. If you think of them like I did – as shalwar-kameez clad, conservative people – then your view is about to change, forever.
The northern areas of Pakistan consist of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, with Hindukush, Karakoram and western Himalayas guarding it on the north and south respectively. It borders to the north with Afghanistan and China, to the south with India and Azad Kashmir and to the west with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Populated by 1,800,000 people (according to 2008 census), the territory of present-day Gilgit–Baltistan became a separate administrative unit in 1970 under the name of Northern Areas, formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar.
On August 29, 2009, the Pakistani cabinet passed the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009, which was later signed by the President. The order contracted self-rule to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, by creating an elected Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly among other things. Gilgit–Baltistan thus gained de facto province-like status without constitutionally being a province.
When education is a national emergency, the literacy rate of the region is considerably higher than the rest of the country, and whatever the demographic facts might say, the people are sincere towards education with over 2,100 schools and educational institutions, most of them are community-based with primary and secondary schools and adult education centres.
The people have formed various community-based programs with help from NGOs and strongly believe that they can solve their problems creatively and peacefully. But sadly, Pakistan has not integrated them further in the country’s affairs on the grounds of its international obligations over the Kashmir dispute. Consequently, these enlightened people do not have the right to vote in the Senate and National Assembly.
In spite of all the stereotypes about them, the people of northern areas continue to show a rather educated, constructive and liberal face of Pakistan to the world. The most recent examples are of Natasha Baig from Hunza being selected as one of the only six participants in the show Cornetto Music Icons from all over Pakistan and Samina Baig also from Hunza who became the Pakistani woman to conquer the peak of Mount Everest.
Apart from these two in the field of sports, the northern areas have given Pakistan a female arm-wrestling champion and a few international female cricketers.
Another example is of Hina Hazrat from Chitral, a student in Karachi University, who founded The Youth Republic, a global youth network spread across 135 countries, which bagged the runner-up award in the World Youth Summit, 2012 in Canada, competing with 1224 entries from 122 UN member states who submitted their projects in the global contest. The Youth Republic’s most recent initiative, Parinday, which focuses on Indo-Pak friendship, is co-founded by Hina Hazrat and the music icon Natasha Baig.
Yet another example is of Saeeda Mirbaz Khan, who after writing a 100-page essay for an international competition, came out a winner, beating 1900 essays from 25 countries. She was honoured by the then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, and was inducted as youth governor of Gilgit-Baltistan in the National Youth Assembly.
Judging from the above, women empowerment seems to be thriving in the northern areas, when it has yet to find a way even in the most educated and posh locales of urban Pakistan.
The list of their contributions is endless. But we find it easier to marginalise people instead of acknowledging their talents. Six months ago, my whole perception about these people changed forever. Now, I know that northern areas of Pakistan are synonymous with education, dedication to their country and empowerment.

Source:  http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/17552/womens-empowerment-and-literacy-have-we-underestimated-the-northern-areas/

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Family Planning: It’s Time to Empower the Next Generation

Across East Africa, the majority of young adolescents are living without choice. With little or no access to modern contraceptives and family planning education, they lack the ability to choose when to become pregnant and even how many children to have. This lack of choice can have devastating consequences for their future life.

Link: http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2013/08/Family-Planning-Its-Time-to-Empower-the-Next-Generation

Friday, August 16, 2013

THE FACTS: Young People Living with HIV

Around the world, 5 million young people are living with HIV. And with 41 percent of new HIV infections occurring among young people, that means every 30 seconds, another young person becomes HIV positive. Most live in the Global South in countries that lack the resources to meet their needs. They face widespread stigma in a world that still often misunderstands HIV and fears or blames those who have it – and the majority of HIV-positive youth are women, placing them at an even greater societal disadvantage in many countries.

Most deaths from AIDS also occur in low and middle income countries. HIV prevention education, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), treatment, and care programs can help young people prevent HIV, live with HIV, and reduce related stigma and discrimination – but more programs are needed. 


To read more:  http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/storage/advfy/documents/young2.pdf

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Family Planning After Childbirth Is Critical to Women's Health

The mother of four children, a pregnant Anita Devi arrived at the primary health center near her village for one of her antenatal visits. Nurse-midwife Rati Rani made the 35-year-old mother comfortable and, as part of the visit, talked with Mrs. Devi about her family and the risks of having children too close together. This child would be Mrs. Devi’s fifth in nine years of marriage; three of her children were born within a year of each other.
After the birth of her fifth child, Anita Devi (left) chose intrauterine contraception with the help and encouragement of nurse-midwife Rati Rani. Rani is among hundreds of nurse-midwives at the forefront of India’s postpartum family planning effort.
“My mother-in-law was against any form of contraception,” Mrs. Devi explained when asked about her previous births. “Though my second child was a son, she said that I should try for more sons. But my next children were girls. I was tired and felt I had nothing left in my body.”
Rani had heard such explanations before. In Bihar province, families have on average 3.7 children, and only 32.4 percent of women use any family planning method.
Rani and hundreds of other nurse-midwives across India are at the forefront of a targeted effort by the government of India to save lives by reinvigorating postpartum family planning (PPFP) services. With the support and technical expertise of Jhpiego and partners, India’s nurse-midwives are educating and counseling women about their family planning options during antenatal visits and introducing them to the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD). This long-acting method lasts for 10 years and can be inserted within 48 hours after giving birth. As part of its lifesaving work in India, Jhpiego is helping to reinvigorate vital family planning services in 16 states and assist the Indian Nursing Council in strengthening the education of nursing and midwifery students.
Mrs. Devi and her husband chose to have an IUCD inserted after she gave birth to her fifth child, a girl. “Every time I feel doubtful, I come to Rani,” she said. “She explains it all beautifully to me and now I am confident that I have done the right thing.”
Rani, 35, says the government initiative is having an impact in the 42 villages served by the Teghra Primary Health Center. Since January of this year, 241 women have been provided postpartum IUCD services, 186 of them by Rani.
She has seen firsthand the challenges women and their families face when burdened with too many children, often struggling to provide them with food and clothing. “The mother suffers in silence,” says Rani, who was trained by Jhpiego under the PPFP initiative supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Only if we have smaller families will we be able to have healthier families where the children will get better nutrition and opportunities to educate themselves. Only then can we ultimately have a better and healthier society.”

Source:  http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2013/04/Family-Planning-After-Childbirth-Is-Critical-to-Womens-Health

Over 15,000 women die of pregnancy complications

Each year in Pakistan, more than 15,000 women die due to pregnancy related complications, among which Postpartum Hemorrhage that is blood loss exceeding 500ml at vaginal delivery and 1000ml at caesarean section is accounting for first leading cause of maternal death in our country.
Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health President Dr Shershah Syed, Dr Shoaib Magsi, Dr Naseer Baloch, Dr Akhter Hameed expressed these views on Tuesday while speaking at a press conference held at the PMA House.
Dr Shershah Syed said that primary PPH was usually occurred due to uterine atony which was failure of the uterus to contract and retract which could be prevented by taking some necessary steps.
He said, “PPH in Pakistan is accounting for about 30 percent of all maternal deaths as almost every second women in Pakistan is anemic and small blood loss during labour leads her towards death. So the management of PPH is essential to produce a visible dent in current high maternal mortality rate.
On the basis of various scientific researches approved that the incidents of PPH may be avoided or prevented up to more than 60 percent with effective usage of urotonic medicines like Misoprostol. Misoprostol is a potent uterotonic medicine that helps reduce the incidents of postpartum hemorrhage. PPH can effectively be controlled if it is administrated according to WHO protocol (single dose of 400 to 600 micrograms) is given either sublingual or orally or per rectal immediately after delivery of the baby. Its demonstrated effectiveness in the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage is further enhanced by the fact that it is an inexpensive, easily available and convenient to use at community level by any healthcare provider including doctors, midwives, lady health visitors and lady health workers.
Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health in collaboration with Small Grant Ambassador Fund Program (SGAFP) is initiating an intervention of training of health care providers on Management of PPH with Misoprostol in 8 selected districts of Sindh (Thatta, Badin, Tharparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Jamshoro and Karachi) and five selected districts of Balochistan (Gwader, Turbat, Loralai, Sibi and Quetta), he said and added that the aim behind this intervention is to reduce maternal mortality and achieving MDGs 4-5 in Pakistan.

Source:  http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/karachi/20-Mar-2013/over-15-000-women-die-of-pregnancy-complications

Educate young people about reproductive health services

Young people are defined as those aged 10 to 24 years. This group includes adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years as well as youth aged from 15 to 24 years. It is in this age range that most young people begin to actively explore their sexuality and, therefore, require sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Although young people have sexual and reproductive health rights, society has in most cases ignored this aspect, often perceiving them as “young” in the sense that they do not, or should not even have any sexual reproductive health needs at all. Evidence shows us that the sexual and reproductive health rights of young people are important and should be made a priority.
Ignoring the sexual and reproductive health rights of young people will not stop them from having sex or even early pregnancies. Similarly, it does not imply that they are too young to make reproductive health decisions. On almost daily basis, we see young people making reproductive health decisions. Unfortunately, many times these decisions are based on ignorance and lack of information. For instance, the fact that in Uganda one in four teenage girls (24 per cent) has had a baby or is pregnant shows that teenage girls are sexually active. Denying them their rights to reproductive health information and services, including family planning, is wrong.
According to a study carried out by the World Health Organisation in 2006, if the sexual reproductive health needs of young people are to be met, there should be a focus on training service providers, improving health facilities as well as informing and mobilising communities to generate demand and community support.
Community mobilisation works as an avenue for creating awareness in the community so as to create a supportive environment for the youth to freely access sexual reproductive health services. Mobilisation and sentisation, however, can only work if complimented with building community support, which is a prerequisite if we are to ensure that young people freely access reproductive health services.
This approach requires a comprehensive approach that involves interventions targeting three audiences, including the young people, their parents or care takers, teachers for those in school as well as health providers who could also help the youth out of school.
Notable among the successful interventions to increase community support include sensitisation programmes such mass media outreaches that involve the youth, parents, teachers and community leaders. Others include community education or information sessions, which should be carried out in locations close to health facilities so that in case the young people need to access services, they are referred to the facilities in close proximity to where they are.
Such interventions often have a positive impact on both the young people and the wider community as they promote dialogue among both groups, encouraging young people to utilise the services provided without feeling judged.
Communities, therefore, need to be mobilised to join efforts geared towards providing services to meet the sexual reproductive health needs of young people. This in the end will create opportunities for increased demand for the services as well as an enabling environment where young people will feel that they can freely access these services without being judged by their families and communities. 
Source:  http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Commentary/Educate-young-people-about-reproductive-health-services/-/689364/1910886/-/svyq2y/-/index.html

Family Planning: It’s Time to Empower the Next Generation

Across East Africa, the majority of young adolescents are living without choice. With little or no access to modern contraceptives and family planning education, they lack the ability to choose when to become pregnant and even how many children to have. This lack of choice can have devastating consequences for their future life. 
Consider Maureen’s story:
Maureen is a young girl aged 12 living in Uganda. Naturally she doesn’t talk about sex with her parents. As in many other cultures, sex is strictly taboo, which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the high incidence of teenage pregnancies, infant and maternal death rates, and rise in HIV infections that plague her community. One day her period starts. Too ashamed to return to school, she drops out and begins hanging around with a local group from her neighbourhood. Without access to contraceptives, she soon becomes pregnant. Due to her young age, complications arise during delivery and although her baby survives, she develops an obstetric fistula causing her to involuntary leak urine and faeces. Shunned from the community, she remains indoors until her family eventually tire of her and she is cast out to fend for herself.
Fortunately, due to the intervention of global initiatives and the work of organisations like DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung) in Eastern Africa, this situation is gradually changing for the better. More and more young people are making better and more informed decisions and choices – in other words, they are taking control over their lives.
Let’s consider Maureen’s story after DSW’s involvement in her district:
Maureen is a young girl aged 12 living in Uganda. Due to the intervention of DSW’s “Young Adolescents Project” in the region which aimed at removing barriers faced by young adolescents (10 to 14 years) in accessing age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights information; her parents, teachers, and community leaders maintain an open and honest atmosphere when it comes to sex education, especially given the high incidence of teenage pregnancies, infant and maternal death rates, and HIV infections that once plagued their community. Maureen is introduced to the topic at a young age, has all her questions answered, and knows how to avoid an unintended pregnancy. She is prepared for her period and is not ashamed when it starts. She remains in school and passes with good grades enabling her to go to university. When she is ready, she decides how many children she would like to have. Her future is bright and open.

Link:  http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2013/08/Family-Planning-Its-Time-to-Empower-the-Next-Generation

Adolescent pregnancy: Speakers stress on laws to ban early marriages

The burden of overpopulation does not only create problems in the job market and other sectors, but also adds to an unsafe law and order situation. These views were shared by experts who believed that Pakistan could counter many of its problems, especially the rate of crime, by controlling its population.
At a seminar on ‘Adolescent Pregnancy’, organised by the Sindh population department on Friday, the speakers said that Pakistan was a signatory to an international agreement which stipulates that a girl below the age of 18 years cannot be married. The country’s law, however, allows a 16-year-old girl to enter marriage.
Officials and health experts agreed that multiple issues – such as crime, water shortage, illiteracy, unrest and shortage of food – could not be resolved until and unless the growth of population was controlled.
“Marriage is a happy moment for a woman, not a girl,” said Shrutidhar Tripathi of the United Nations Population Fund, adding that teenage marriages had created several issues in developing states.
Sindh Population Minister Syed Ali Mardan Shah stressed that population growth was a serious issue in Pakistan. “We all have to work together to overcome this challenge. Our department is committed to working day and night and I believe we’ll be able to make a difference soon, at least in Sindh,” he said.
The department’s secretary, Muhammad Saleem Raza, was in agreement and said that the department will educate girls about early marriages so that they were more aware.
Talking about the consequences of the population explosion, the additional secretary Syed Ashfaq Ali Shah said that despite the lower birth rate in Sindh, there were many issues that the government had to tackle. “The birth rate which was 6.3 per cent in 1970 is now down to 3.6 per cent but it is still high compared to developed states – this is because of early marriages.”
Problems in the making
“Only 35 per cent of the population in Pakistan uses methods of contraception. The percentage in Bangladesh is even better than ours at 56 per cent,” he said.
Highlighting the affects on a teenage mother and her child, Dr Irshad Shaikh said that safe and clean births was another serious issue which women in Pakistan were facing.
“We are destroying our youth. Early marriages also increase crime and other social problems – we need to look at the basic issues and commit to overcoming these problems,” Dr Yasmeen Abbasi said.
In Dr Ayoob Shaikh’s opinion, early marriages should be banned like the government had imposed bans on drugs. “It is a curse,” said Dr Shaikh, adding that normal deliveries were not common in rural areas and other cities of Sindh. “This is an issue which has crippled our women and the government needs pay attention to it.”
Source:  http://tribune.com.pk/story/576649/adolescent-pregnancy-speakers-stress-on-laws-to-ban-early-marriages/

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Youth Parliament of Pakistan and its contribution to national development

More than half of 5,000 18-29 year-old Pakistanis polled said democracy had not been good for them or the country.Furthermore, 94% said Pakistan was going in the wrong direction - a figure up from 50% in 2007.

Making up almost a third of registered voters, the under-30s are expected to play a big part in Pakistan's general elections in May.When asked to pick the best political system, both Sharia law and military rule were favoured over democracy.

The survey points towards a pessimistic generation, disenchanted with democracy after 5 years of civilian rule, says the BBC's Orla Guerin in Islamabad.Most of those surveyed had more faith in the army than any other institution: Its approval rating was about 70% compared with just 13% for the government.

A quarter of respondents said they had been directly affected by violence, or had witnessed a serious violent event.That figure rose to more than 60% in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

The greatest concern for most was rising prices, not terrorism: Almost 70% said they were worse off now than five years ago.While many young people are registered to vote, less than half of those surveyed said they were certain they would do so.

Source: http://www.defence.pk/forums/social-issues-current-events/243558-pakistani-youth-favors-sharia-law-over-democracy.html

Friday, August 2, 2013

Who is Responsible?

Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic magnitude around the globe. At least one out of every three women around the world has been the victim of violation, beaten by the dominants, intimidated into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime or suffered domestic violence. For the Elimination of Violence against Women, in 1999, the UN General Assembly selected 25 November as the International Day to raise the awareness among the people of the world to stop such inhuman activities against women.
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll (June 2011) Pakistan is ranked third dangerous country of the world for the women due to the high crime magnitude against women whereas Afghanistan is ranked as first dangerous country and Congo as second, India as forth and Somalia as fifth country for women and girls due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal health-care, domestic violence and honor killings. The report states that 90 % women in Pakistan are suffering domestic violence, based on assessments by gender experts, while one in every three experiences some form of violence such as rape, honor killing, immolation, acid attacks, murdering and verbal or psychological abuse.
There is 13 % increase in crime rate against women in the last three years according to the police stations, courts and complaint cells whereas most of the cases are not reported due to social norms, self-respect, domestic preventions and cultural taboos.
The cases of violation against the women in 2011 which were reported to the police stations, courts, complaint cells and other organizations are estimated by different resources which defines crime magnitude as some 3,035 cases of violence against women in Punjab, 1,195 women had been murdered, 98 had been raped before they were killed, 321 women were raped, and 194 were gang-raped. This is a little snapshot of the crime magnitude against the women and girls in Pakistan in 2011.
After such gruesome activities take place in the country some questions spring in the mind of any sensible person regarding women rights such as where are the law enforcement organizations? What role are they playing in protecting the women rights? What the judiciary is implementing to forbid such criminal accidents? Where are the NGOs which claim to fight for the women rights? Isn’t there any act in the constitution designed to stop violation against women if yes then why it is not being implemented by the authorities?
There is no need to look so far into the history of law enforcement to protect women rights, let’s take into account the recent bill which is passed in 2011 demanding greater social protection for women. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, authored by PML-Q MNA Dr. Donya Aziz, was unanimously passed by the National Assembly as well as the Senate. Amendments which are introduced in the Act 2011 include forcing a woman into marriage for settling a dispute to be a non-bailable offence, bartering a woman in such a way to be punishable by three to five years imprisonment and a fine of Rs0.5 million, depriving a woman of her inheritance can lead to imprisonment of between five and 10 years or a fine of Rs 1 million, Forced marriages to be punishable by between three and 10 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 0.5 million, throwing acid on women will be hanged or imprisoned and forcing a woman to “marry” the Holy Quran to result in a jail term of three to seven years and a fine of Rs 0.5 million.

For more details:  http://www.womag.pk/who-is-responsible/

Future of Pakistan in Hands of the Youth

Youth all over the world through history, has been a revolutionary force. It is the precious asset and opulence that can revive a nation going through hard time. Youth of a nation can do wonders if availed, trained, educated and informed in an optimum fashion. Literally it refers to all the human force in a nation lying between the age group of 18 – 29 years. Though tender an age, yet the intellect, physical strength and wisdom it possesses has no parallel.
Pakistan, our much-loved homeland; is passing through challenging times in regard to economic, social and political turmoil. Crime rate is increasing, with a fast depletion of natural resources, deteriorating agriculture and power shortages, with instances of severe human right violation and sufferings of the common man. There are demonstrations and strikes, brutalities and scourge that affect hundreds everyday. In such a chaos there is still a huge quantum of hope along side, there is anticipation and prospects en route for accomplishment and triumph. Consequently, there is a huge responsibility lying on the young generation’s shoulders, towards nation building. To bring the state of affairs back on track the youth has to play its proactive role to help change things for better, and to revive the state of affairs from getting worse.
Literally a tolerant society refers to the one which supports for practices that prohibit ethnic and religious discrimination, and likewise a peaceful society is the one undisturbed by strife, turmoil, or disagreement, there is existence of a tranquil environment . An amalgam of the aforementioned traits, which are a prerequisite of an ideal society, will lead to good governance and democratic practices. Thus in the long run it will determine the state of well being of the nation. In Pakistan, one of the main hurdles towards progress and development has been the continuous intolerance and restlessness among all segments of the society, leg pulling of the political leaderships and democratic rulers, which eventually led to undemocratic practices over the course of the past decades. Youth, especially students have been exploited for the self interests of different pressure groups. Hence, in present time the youth has to differentiate and target the required sources to prevent the history from repeating itself; hence join hands for the cause of the nation.
Youth comprises the major portion of the demography in Pakistan. An educated and well informed youth can revive the present state of restlessness in the country. However, we shall elucidate the youth role towards a peaceful and tolerant society in an elaborate manner. It follows a hierarchical procedure in order to trigger, implement and then maintain a desired state of mind among the people. Theory without practice is of little use. Change and innovation needs to be implemented at the grass root level for sufficient and desirable outcomes.
Foremost of all youth should avail their right to vote, which can and certainly will bring a desired change with their huge power in term of population and strength, in the political and social arena. They should make an active use of their civic rights like freedom of speech, form groups for certain national interests; attend to conferences, use Internet, avail the press, radio and television, by offering an article or feature in the newspapers, holding press conferences, distributing hand-outs for sharing their particular point of view among others, and should report on the problems facing the nation in an objective manner with responsibility. Youth should get motivated to becoming part of commissions and participate in youth action plans; which will give a vent to the voice of the youth in an effective manner. Such forums can help in policy making specifically for the youth betterment and in general for public welfare. Consequently, a society built on the needs, wants and demands of its majority populace will be a justice provoking and tolerant one in kind.
Youth participation in governance related issue is essential to have a corruption free society in our country. Youth should advocate against any discrepancies and incongruity that affects the socio political culture within Pakistan. Student unions and groups can mobilize and advocate their point of view by writing to newspapers, participating in media, internet blogs, net communities, and magazines; by pressurizing the authorities to bring those elements answerable to the court of law. A sense of responsibility among all the citizens and among the youth in specific can trigger change towards a tolerant and peaceful society. Henceforth, an educated and proactive youth can find solutions in a peaceful manner rather than deteriorating the affairs.
Youth should get motivated and also encourage their peers, colleagues and friends to bring about a change n the mind set of the whole nation towards critically analyzing the on going state of affairs in the society and bring all the possible solutions at a table; by joining hands together with various stake holders including the private sector, Non-government organizations, the educational institutions and citizen groups. Dissecting and analyzing the basic cause of the problem will lead to a better understanding of the problem and will lead to health some solutions. Rather than engraving extremism, intolerance and hatred; there will be a rational decision making with more effective outcomes. For instance, the on going sugar, power or fuel shortage ;the youth should be curious and inquisitive enough to support rational decision making and hence educate the people to all the means mentioned before. This will lead to reduction of frustration in the minds of the people. An idea, to conserve resources and help the government achieve its objectives can be a stance adopted by youth. Possessing a better awareness and analysis, there will be a positive drift towards the conservation of resources rather than hatred and an unpatriotic feeling towards the state and the government. However, after achievement of the primary goal; as a secondary achievement the youth together as a coercive force should raise their voice for the conservation of resources by the Government run institutes and representatives. So, that together the public and private sector can reduce the sense of dispossession, disparity and hatred among the masses.
Youth; having all the strength of the physical and mental abilities; possessing the superiority of their power as a dominant demographic group can over come the differences and sense of deprivation existing between the provinces. Student Groups; or individuals at the floor of all forums should inculcate patriotism and nationhood among the youth from other areas all over the country. Keeping the national interest ahead everything and anything else, and crossing the barriers of language and culture, youth should amalgamate and seek solutions to all problems. Understanding, analyzing and then finding solutions to the demands of a deprived group; Youth should propose solutions based on justice and efficient participation.
For the matter of fact, one of the major causes behind intolerance in Pakistan is the poor performance of the bureaucracy and government officials over the past few decades. Now, in order to revive and revitalize the system of government, Youth should seek admissions into the Civil Services of Pakistan, as it would provide an honest workforce keeping in view the factors of moral and mental determination of the youth, which will lead to a better functioning of the systems.
Youth of today is vulnerable to many external influences in the Pakistani society. The individual youth, at the level of its own individual entity needs to create a balance between his internal dynamics and external influences. Internal dynamics should be firm and persistent enough that pity matters should not overcome the emotional and psychological aspects of an individual mind. However, in the state of a paradox, conflict resolution between individual desires and available resources has to be disentangled with a mature and considerate approach. Only, when the individual young mind is firm and determined; can the whole society reform. In case the individual young mind of a youth is in a state of conflict and discord, then many similar souls will together perish the whole society with intolerant and highly irritable outcomes and consequences. Such a practice in societies consequently leads to unrest and anarchy.
The next level at which tolerance needs to be sustained is the family life and with friends and peers. Youth should start by helping each other with the little chores to execute. Self discipline and helping each other should be made a part of daily routine. Teams should be made to complete the tasks assigned or to fulfill a certain responsibility. In a situation of conflict, effective dialogue and negotiations can work out the problem. Often it happens that with the interference of a third party, the state of paradox resolves much effectively.
Similarly, in a commune and in town; the youth should formulate teams to coup up with the challenges and difficulties faced by that particular group of people. Be it environmental, social or a similar hindrance, an efficient group effort executed by youth, can lead to sufficient positive changes. While making teams, the team leader nominated as a result of a popular vote should be capable of delivering justice and coordination between the different members of the task force. If justice prevails, it will further lead to successful achievement of the goals. Resolution of a problem will not lead to conflict and intolerance, rather in time of a calamity the teams can provide work force through the principle of self help and solidarity. Such practices at the level of our homes and community will nurture tolerance and peace will have a great impact at the macro level.

For more details:  http://www.womag.pk/future-of-pakistan-in-hands-of-the-youth/

Pakistani youth has bright future: Sharmila

Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister on media Sharmila Farooqui has said that the present problems of Pakistan are the result of long dictatorship as Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf promoted extremism and terrorism in the country.
Pakistani Youth are full of patriotic feelings and their future is very bright, she said while speaking as a chief guest in a Seminar ‘Provincial Youth Conference- Democracy, Governance and Youth Participation’ under Sindh Community Foundation here at local hotel on Thursday.
She said, ‘Islam is the religion of peace and it teaches to safeguard the rights of others and those who follow extremism are not true followers of religion’ She added that everyone had a right to protest, but it should be peaceful. Pakistani youth could save Pakistan and they could change the destiny of the country.
She said that it was really very sorry to say that 65 years had passed and we still talked about strengthening institutions and if democratic governments were allowed to function smoothly, the country would become most developed country in the world. Sharmila Farooqui said that for youth policy consultative dialogues should be held in order to know their problems.
Advisor to CM said that it was the need of the hour that patriotism should be promoted. Present democratic government had provided jobs on merit to one lac people. ‘Right now free judiciary and media are working in the country. Negative approaches must be discouraged, she concluded.

Source:  http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/karachi/30-Mar-2012/pakistani-youth-has-bright-future-sharmila