By Farahnaz Zahidi
Published: May 3, 2015
LAHORE: “Being a woman doesn’t mean I am less than a man in any way,” Hiba Hassan, a 22-year-old student at the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), says. The young head girl of her class speaks of a sense of motivation and empowerment that she attributes to sensitisation regarding gender equality that she and her fellow students have been exposed to at the university.
The university recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the All Pakistan’s Woman Association (APWA), one of the first partnerships of its kind for gender equality. Together, they organise workshops and trainings for students and teachers to increase an understanding of gender equality. Part of the objective is to include women in peace processes at all levels and celebrate them as agents of peace.
Professor Shireen Asad, the student affairs director at the college, says, “We have more than 12,000 students studying up to PhD level. As an institute we feel that women’s empowerment is a basic pillar of progress.” Asad, an expert in psychology, says she believes that it is important to expose girls to ideas that could help them develop confidence and self-worth.
Durre Shahwar, the programme director at the APWA, echoes Asad’s sentiments. “I work on programmes to protect the girl child from exploitation. I believe in raising awareness in children’s formative years.” Shahwar has been working with the APWA to educate young women and men students about gender equality.
She says boys studying at the Ahmed Hassan Polytechnique College are being educated about these basics as part of their efforts. “We are working on another project with 200 girls from Kinnaird College. They will be involved in community service and will become agents of change,” Shahwar says. Recently, the association held a national conference titled the Role of Women in Promoting Peace and Harmony for a better Pakistan. The conference aimed to provide a platform to key stakeholders to come together and highlight the importance of women in peace and development. More than 200 students distributed pink scarves with messages of peace and equality painted on them. The scarves were made by students themselves. “Equality is not possible without economic empowerment,” says Shahwar. She says the APWA has been working on micro-finance projects aimed at helping out financially underprivileged women.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2015.