Women’s and girls’ rights in focus in Pakistan

Published 29 June 2018 in:

From the women’s rights documentary play “SEVEN”. Photo: Haris Khalid Islamabad

In Pakistan – the world’s sixth most populous country and the sixth most dangerous country for women – Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is being applied in practice. Sweden’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Ingrid Johansson, talks about the support Pakistan receives to promote gender equality, for example by informing women about how to gain better access to legal aid. “It feels incredibly meaningful,” she says.

“Nowhere is feminist foreign policy more relevant than here. The challenges facing girls and women in this country really need to be addressed, and Sweden is a strong partner in this respect,” says Ms Johansson.

The Swedish Embassy in Islamabad has helped to create platforms that bring together agencies, international organisations and civil society to promote issues concerning gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights. At the same time, the situation for women remains difficult and requires many more and greater efforts. In recent years, many effective initiatives have been taken to strengthen women’s rights. But as the women themselves do not always know about these initiatives, they are unable to fully benefit from them. The Embassy therefore took the initiative to work with partners to create a media information campaign to spread this knowledge to new and broader target groups. In social media alone, the campaign has reached approximately seven million Pakistanis.

The information campaign was part of the women’s rights documentary play SEVEN, which was performed in all provinces in Pakistan in 2017 and 2018. The performances put the spotlight on violence against women and aimed to increase Pakistani women’s knowledge of the support that is available to them in their own province. The play was presented by specially invited local politicians, activists, lawyers, celebrities and public officials who also actively participated in the information campaign (television, newspapers, radio, social media) with concrete and contextualised messages about support functions for women subjected to violence. These include helplines, legal aid and new legislation.

“A reading of SEVEN was performed by students and teachers at the university in Quetta, which is in Balochistan – a province where the situation of women is particularly difficult but receives very little attention. Around 600 students filled the auditorium and the university’s journalism and media students got the messages out in radio programmes that reached the entire sparsely populated province. It’s fantastic to be able to contribute in this way by enabling discussions on violence against women in environments where women’s and girls’ rights are rarely talked about,” says Ms Johansson.

A particular added value is that the project has also helped to establish new networks between local politicians, activists, lawyers and other engaged people who have never previously worked together on gender quality issues.