The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is gravely concerned by the tremendous losses of life and livelihoods and ongoing humanitarian crisis triggered by the worst floods in Pakistan’s history.
We stand in solidarity with all the women, men and children of Pakistan during this difficult time. In particular, we send a message of solidarity to the women of Pakistan, who for many years have contributed to upholding the struggle for peace and democracy throughout the country, and who continue to struggle for survival in the face of this unprecedented crisis.
Please donate now to help Urgent Action Fund support women’s organizations in Pakistan (see below for more information on UAF’s work)
Whilst the flooding has had a devastating impact on everyone in Pakistan with an estimated twenty million people displaced, and one-fifth of the country underwater, women are particularly affected. Due to gender norms that marginalize them, women and girls are more likely to fall through the gaps of emergency relief and reconstruction processes. They are often denied access to the provision of food relief and reproductive health services, while female-headed households, pregnant women and those with infants are particularly at risk. In post-disaster situations women also face an increased threat of violence, including sexual violence.
Many of the flood-affected areas of Pakistan have spent years in conflict marked by rising religious fundamentalisms. Reports from the ground indicate that fundamentalist groups are mobilizing aid and providing relief services in areas unreachable by the government with potentially dangerous implications for women’s rights. While it is clear that the scope of the current crisis is beyond the capacity of the Pakistani government to address and that fundamentalist organizations are attempting to fill this gap, there are many other groups engaged in fundraising and delivering emergency relief on the ground who are working from a human rights perspective and whose efforts require vital support (please see a short list below). Pakistani women’s organizations are also reporting that women and children are missing in significant numbers, which could mean they have been kidnapped. Women in the rural areas of Pakistan are among the most disadvantaged with particular difficulties in accessing relief and reconstruction support.
Despite these challenges, women have a vital role to play in the reconstruction of Pakistan. Women hold valuable skills and knowledge on community mobilization, coping strategies and local resources. In their roles as economic actors, as caregivers and as leaders, they are essential to rebuilding a just and inclusive Pakistan. As supporters and facilitators of Pakistani women’s participation in the reconstruction process, Pakistani women’s organizations must also be central actors to efforts on the ground.
AWID therefore calls upon the government of Pakistan and the international community to take immediate action to ensure that the very much-needed aid is committed and actually delivered in a timely and effective fashion. Also, the well-being of women and girls has to be ensured through the provision of both emergency relief and significant longer-term support for reconstruction and development that responds to the gender-specific needs and circumstances of Pakistani women and girls. In particular, we call for the full participation of women at all levels of reconstruction and for sustained efforts to be centered on the long-term development needs of women and girls and the promotion and protection of their human rights.
Links to some of the women’s organizations working in Pakistan or doing resource mobilization to support relief efforts there:
In Pakistan, grassroots women’s groups have stepped into leadership roles to ensure that women are safe and secure, that women’s needs are met and their voices are heard, and that aid is distributed effectively and equitably. Last week, UAF funded a request from Grassroots in Action (GIA) in Peshawar. GIA observed that in natural disaster situations, women and children do not have the same access to humanitarian aid as men do…Please donate now to help UAF support women’s organizations in Pakistan.
Women and girls “are also at risk of sexual violence — already reports are emerging of rape and kidnapping, as criminals and human traffickers take advantage of the chaos caused by the floods. And, GIA pointed out, when mass-anxiety and insecurity reign, age-old patriarchal values and behavior can gain a stronger foothold.
GIA proposed to train 230 community-based organizations in three flood districts on the gender dimensions of the disaster and how to overcome them. Once trained, these organizations will coordinate their flood responses and ensure the needs of women and children are met, document women’s human rights violations and make recommendations for addressing them, and advocate for women’s needs to national and international NGOs throughout the rehabilitation process.
Your dollars can go a long way in Pakistan. You have the power to chose where you send your money. Please give to UAF so we can support the grassroots organizations that are meeting the real needs of women and children in this crisis.
Blue Veins, another Pakistani women’s organization, also received UAF support last week. Despite reports of trafficking, kidnapping, abuse, and sexual violence in the flood-affected areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, the government and aid agencies are focusing solely on providing food and shelter, and are not prioritizing the protection of women. Blue Veins proposed to establish 100 Multi-Purpose Committees of women in 100 flood affected areas and Internally Displaced People Camps. The Committees will train women about their rights and how to prevent further violence, report incidents of gender violence, and advocate for women with government and aid agencies.
Please donate now to help UAF support women’s organizations in Pakistan.
Shirkat Gah, a women’s resource center with offices around the country, is sending out field teams to assess the needs of communities in all four provinces. They are focusing on women and children, and collaborating with partner NGO’s to deliver the necessary aid. UAF made an alliance grant to Shirkat Gah last week.
- In Londa village, where nearly all the infrastructure has been destroyed, the field team found out that women had not been able to obtain medical assistance or food during official distributions. Shirkat Gah distributed food and organized two medical camps for women.
- In Shahdadkot, Shirkat Gah interviewed people who were camped on the banks of rivers and canals. The displaced people said they did not need food right now, but prioritized medical aid, especially for pregnant women. Shirkat Gah worked with partner organizations to organize a mobile medical station to move along the canals, with a female doctor.
- Shirkat Gah is attending official meetings with the United Nations and the President of Pakistan, to voice women’s needs and concerns. These include the fact that banned militant groups are providing food and shelter in areas the government and NGOs have not been able to reach, and that the number of missing women and children is increasing.
Basic supplies are of utmost importance. One of our advisors told us that many young girls have stopped moving around at all because they have no sanitary pads and they are ashamed of the blood staining their clothes. This makes it difficult for women and girls to access other necessities such as food and medical aid. Most of the relief packages do not contain sanitary napkins because of the taboo & shame associated with them.
If you wish to donate directly to Shirkat Gah’s women-focused humanitarian aid effort, click here.”
For further information and to donate, please visit UAF.