The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly 1.5 million people across the globe and more than 85,000 deaths have occurred since the disease first emerged in December last year. The Covid-19 crisis however, is more than just a public health emergency as it has also negatively affected systems that took decades to build, to secure access to fundamental rights such as education, healthcare, justice, economic growth and infrastructure with devastating social and economic impacts on vulnerable groups such as women and children.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the danger of the limited gains in gender equality and women’s rights made over decades at risk of being rolled back due to the covid-19 pandemic. In order to achieve this, we must put women and children at the center of efforts by governments to recover from Covid-19 as urged by the UN Secretary-General: “That starts with women as leaders, with equal representation and decision-making power” he added.
In this regard, the Ministry of Law and Justice is pleased to collaborate with Group Development Pakistan (GDP) and the Women in Law Initiative, Pakistan on a project in association with the Australian High Commission on 'Increasing Women's Representation in Law' and a contribution from the British High Commission. The focal person leading the project is Nida Usman Chaudhry, founder of Women in Law Initiative, Pakistan with support from Valerie Khan, Executive Director of GDP. Under this project, the Women in Law awards shall be institutionalized, a symposium on ‘increasing women’s representation in law will be held and a Women in Law web app and portal will be developed as a platform for documenting and highlighting women’s contribution and achievement to law and other resources.
"The Australian High Commission is delighted to support this initiative through our Direct Aid program (DAP). It will help promote the strong contribution of women in Pakistan's legal profession. This is an important gender equality goal in its own right. The initiative also equally further strengthens the capacity of Pakistan's legal system to deliver proper access to justice for women and children” said the Australian High Commissioner, Mr. Geoffrey Shaw at the launch of this project in Islamabad on 3rd September 2020.
Valerie Khan, GDP Executive Director called the initiative a “historical step in the right direction to achieve gender and child justice as per SDG 16.2, 5 and 17”.
While commenting on the objectives of the project Nida Usman said, “We believe that access to justice will improve with more representation of women in leadership roles within the legal profession and for the first time this will be undertaken as a comprehensive initiative in Pakistan in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Law and Justice. It is hoped that such a historical step will pave the way for more gender and child sensitive structural reforms towards creating a more equal, enabling and inclusive environment for women and children to access justice and their fundamental rights, particularly, in times of crisis”. She also added that, “Collective, institutionalized, creative, gender and child-sensitive, as well as participatory and inclusive action as a response to Covid-19 is the only way we can truly conquer this disease and its many facets”.
The British Deputy High Commissioner Alison Blackburne stated that: “The British High Commission is delighted to partner with Australian High Commission and Federal Ministry of Law and Justice to support efforts of the government of Pakistan to promote contribution of women in the legal profession. The UK is committed to gender equality, diversity and inclusion and this initiative will further strengthen a more inclusive environment in accessing justice for women and children.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice, Barrister Maleeka Bukhari, hailed the women empowerment agenda of the incumbent government. She said there is a dire need to address the gender gap in the legal profession and women should have a place in the decision-making quarters. The present government has enacted laws to support women and children with legal aid in criminal cases. She said the web portal/App on women in law will help identify women lawyers in Pakistan.
Lastly, the honorable Federal Minister for Law and Justice, Dr Farogh Nasseem, said “there are brilliant judges as well as highly educated and competent women in legal profession in the country. He added that the Supreme Court judges are eager to have a female colleague elevated to serve with them in the Supreme Court.” The federal minister further added that the incumbent government had done a lot on women empowerment agenda. “We have enacted law to safeguard women’s property rights. The law if implemented in letter and spirit, will guarantee right of a woman on her property within three months of filing a complaint with the Ombudsperson. The minister expressed his support for ‘Increasing Women Representation in Law’ initiative and said the symposium would help in capacity building of young men and women in the legal profession.