Pakistan Red Crescent launches landmark forum to safeguard women in disasters

Published: 25 November 2015 13:12 CET

By Khalid Bin Majid, Pakistan Red Crescent

On November 25 - the first day of the internationally-recognised 16 Days of Activism to prevent gender-based violence, the Pakistan Red Crescent launched a landmark Women's Forum at its National Headquarters in Islamabad.

The Forum addresses the specific experiences of Pakistani women and girls in times of disaster (whether natural or human induced), such as distinct healthcare needs in emergencies, or vulnerabilities due to early warnings that do not reach women while they are at home.

Many celebrated gains for women and girls have occurred in Pakistan, on primary education equity and maternal health. Yet, the constant threat of disasters puts those gains for women, girls and their communities at risk of slipping backward.

The Pakistan Red Crescent is the most far-reaching humanitarian organization in Pakistan. Through its network of branches the national society helps people affected by frequent  earthquakes, floods, landslides and manmade catastrophes that regularly impact the country.

Red Crescent staff have noted that the particular experiences of women and girls in disasters in Pakistan bear more attention and action. The forum shows that while Pakistan is a diverse country, women and girls face some common humanitarian challenges.

"The Red Crescent is the light at the end of the tunnel for many women like me. We now have a platform to share the issues that we face during and after a disaster," said 35-year-old Nabeela from Chakoti in the Pakistan Administered Kashmir region, which was the worst-affected area during the devastating 2005 earthquake.

“I am very happy and excited about this initiative, and my past experience with Pakistan Red Crescent as a volunteer was very fruitful for me and my family. We lost everything and were shifted to a tent village where the Red Crescent started a vocational training centre which trained hundreds of girls. It gave us real hope," said Nabeela, “We women still have a lot of issues and I will actively engage my community under the umbrella of the Women's Forum”.

The forum will continue beyond the event itself. Comprised of a vibrant community of  women who strive to advance the Pakistan Red Crescent's humanitarian mission by giving time and talent to assist women, the forum won’t end at Pakistan’s borders either. The Red Crescent aims to engage women locally, nationally and internationally.

"It is a platform for members to participate in awareness drives on health, education programmes and to strive for greater empowerment of women,” said Dr Saeed Elahi, the Chairman of Pakistan Red Crescent.

The forum will focus on special measures for gender justice, diversity, and equality, and women’s and girls’ empowerment especially for those living in remote, underdeveloped, environmentally challenged or disaster prone areas. Themes will include women's reproductive health rights, economic empowerment, vulnerability in disasters, gender bias and discrimination.

As champions of women's empowerment, members of the forum will learn about a range of issues including gender-based violence, stress management and trauma counselling as well as how to conduct public events and vocational training.