Gilgit-Baltistan (KASHIF SHAMIM SIDDIQUI): Today, the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) collaborated with UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN-Women to host the second series of discussions involving provincial stakeholders in Gilgit-Baltistan(GB) regarding the development of a National Framework aimed at eradicating child marriage.
The event convened a diverse group of experts, advocates, policymakers, and representatives from federal and provincial departments, as well as civil society organizations. Their primary focus was on discussing a proposed framework for addressing child marriage challenges in the country, with the support of UNFPA. The consultation aimed to gather input from all stakeholders to refine the framework and devise an action plan to prevent child marriages. This plan will be further customized during a second round of provincial consultations to cater to the unique needs of various regions and provinces.
The first session of this second round took place in Gilgit-Baltistan, a picturesque region known for its natural beauty and diverse culture. The purpose of this consultation was to facilitate a fruitful discussion leading to actionable solutions for the pressing issue of child marriage in society.
The consultation saw the active participation of prominent figures, including the Minister of Women Development GB, Ms. Dilshad Bano; Minister of Information Technology GB, Ms. Suraiya Zaman; Secretary of Women Development GB, Mr. Fida Hussain; and the Office of the Chief Secretary GB, along with development partners such as UNICEF, UNDP, and UN-Women. Speaker of the GB Legislative Assembly, Mr. Nazir Ahmad, graced the session as the Chief Guest.
In her opening remarks, the Chairperson of NCSW, Ms. Nilofar Bakhtiar, highlighted the efforts to review and improve the draft child marriage restraint bill for Gilgit Baltistan, stressing the importance of collaboration with civil society, relevant government departments, educational institutions, and religious scholars. This legislation aims to provide basic health facilities to young girls while ensuring their rights under Islamic teachings, with a commitment to seeking approval from the Council of Islamic Ideology before it reaches the legislative assembly.
Ms. Bakhtiar also emphasized the importance of education in protecting young girls from sexual and social exploitation. She pledged her full support for advancing the agenda to prevent child marriage in the region.
Discussing the financial empowerment of women, Ms. Bakhtiar revealed plans for the establishment of community-based Women’s Digital Resource Centers and similar platforms to facilitate women in selling their products more easily. She underlined her special connection with GB and its elected government, emphasizing the region’s capacity to drive this important legislation forward.
Minister for Women Development GB, Ms. Dilshad Bano, expressed gratitude for Chairperson NCSW’s support in promoting pro-women laws and initiatives in GB. She thanked the Speaker GB Assembly, Parliamentarians, and government officers for their collaboration on this critical issue.
Secretary of Women Development, Mr. Fida Hussain, discussed the department’s efforts to empower women in Gilgit Baltistan through training in Demand-Driven Trades, focusing on digital skills, cooking, embroidery, and knitting in five districts of Gilgit.
Minister of Information Technology, Ms. Suraiya Zaman, highlighted the unique opportunities available at the IT Park for women to enhance their online businesses and achieve financial independence.
Speaker GB Assembly, Mr. Nazir Ahmed, expressed his appreciation for Chairperson NCSW’s dedication to addressing child marriage in GB. He emphasized the illogical and non-religious nature of allowing underage marriages while not permitting other significant contracts before the age of majority.
The National Consultation on Child Marriage in Gilgit Baltistan marks a significant step toward addressing the issue of underage marriages in Pakistan. This collaborative effort brings together government officials, civil society, and international organizations to create a comprehensive framework that will safeguard the rights and well-being of young girls while promoting gender equality in the region. As the consultations progress, the collective determination to eliminate child marriage and empower women remains a powerful force for positive change.