Oxfam Pakistan and Indus Consortium organized a rural women's convention where over 80 women farmers from five districts of Punjab, presented a "charter of demands" to the Minister Environment Protection Zakia Shah Nawaz. The charter demands the approval of the Climate Change Policy with proper resource allocation for smallholder women farmers and their participation in budget decision making.
The convention was attended by a large number of people from civil society organizations, government officials, environmentalists, academia, corporate entities and development organizations. Upon being presented the charter of demands, Minister Zakia Shah Nawaz said, "Farmers, especially female play an important role in contributing towards Pakistan's economy. They are the backbone of our country."
She highlighted that as per directives of the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, we are investing heavily in educating our rural youth as they are unaware of their rights, once educated they will be able to understand what their rights are. Presenting their "charter of demands", the female farmers from rural district of Punjab said that natural disasters are affecting their crops, thus the government needs to take action and safeguard their crops. They further demanded that the government should provide good quality seeds for improved crops, loans should be provided to small female farmers on easy installments. The female farmers also demanded sufficient allocation for agriculture in the provincial budget.
In Pakistan, women contribute significantly to agricultural production, processing and promotion. Still they face formidable obstacles to their potential role as a major economic and social force in the development of the agriculture sector. Amongst the problems that constrain the development of women's potential are heavy workloads, lack of access to factors of production, lack of training and access to advisory services.
Oxfam's Programme Director Javeria Afzal welcomed the participants and encouraged them to support rural women farmers.
The women's convention provided a platform to Punjab's women farmers to raise their voices, share their concerns, and present their demands to prompt the government to respond effectively and systemically to domestic climate change threats and to incorporate women focused schemes in the budget of the provincial government in the upcoming year.
"Hashoo Group is working through the foundation to enable young women and men, women farmers and producers through a wide range of rural development approaches. We believe in leveraging local knowledge with scientific research for the benefit of rural communities," said Dr Ayesha Khan, Country Director, Hashoo Foundation.
Pakistan must invest more in small-scale agriculture, especially women who play a vital role in food security. Agriculture needs to be rebuilt along different lines and poor farmers in developing countries made central to that change. Moderated by Fiza Qureshi, Program Manager, Indus Consortium, the concluding session was chaired by Dr Ayesha Khan, Country Director, Hashoo Foundation whereas Saadia Sohail, Member Provincial Assembly, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, Faiza Ahmed, MPA from Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Saira Iftikhar, MPA from PML-N were the panelists.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2017