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Why must women get an ID card?

The reasons for women lagging behind men in the race to get registered as citizens are many, and in rural areas the factors multiply

Why get an ID card?

“Traditionally, in our village, people didn’t feel it was necessary for a woman to have a national identity card (NIC),” she says. Men are the ones who traditionally own property, get preference in education, and have ambitions to be financially independent, not women. But some ten years ago, Kaneez found an incentive to rush to get her NIC made — the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) that gave her the hope of a monthly stipend.

Today, at the age of 41, Kaneez is thankful she got the NIC, as none of the employers in Karachi want to hire her as house help till she shows them her NIC. “Once we moved to Karachi, I realised that to get my daughters admitted in school I needed to get their B Forms made.”

The reasons for women lagging behind men in the race to get registered as citizens are many, and in rural areas the factors multiply.

If women do not have an identity card, they lose out on everything, says Maliha Zia Lari, lawyer and gender activist. “Without it they are not recognised by law; they officially do not exist. It has a massive impact on the personal, the social and the institutional levels.”

Without the NIC, women cannot reach out for any legal protection, their ability do anything on their own is curtailed; they cannot hope for independence. They cannot own or inherit property, and also cannot hope for insurance or be the beneficiary of any welfare initiative, as Lari explains. “Nadra requires a family certificate now for everything, so even the husband not having an ID card poses a problem if and when the wife and children want to get registered. Child marriage cannot be mitigated if a girl without an ID card is married off as she may be a minor for all we know.”

The reasons for women lagging behind men in the race to get registered as citizens are many, and in rural areas the factors multiply. “One of the issues is fulfilling the legal requirements and documentation required for getting the CNIC. Women in rural areas often don’t have means to readily get to the towns, are illiterate, have restrictions on mobility due to traditional customs and cannot travel alone [due to security reasons or family restrictions], and male members of their families don’t always support them to get to offices of the National Database & Registration Authority (Nadra),” says Ali Akbar from the Association for Water, Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE) in district Tharparkar.

Read also: The cultural blockade

Akbar shares instances where women who did not have NICs were exploited and robbed of their rights. “Brothers and fathers who were not willing to give the rightful share of wealth to a sister or a daughter would, to close the revenue department’s record, get the tehsildar to record the statement of a couple of villagers mentioning that Mr so and so has no sister/daughters or that she has died or she is not claiming her right, and thus this male member of the family has the right to hold this property. But now the Nadra record is computerised and the woman has to be present and her statement recorded before the magistrate or registrar for any change in the legal ownership of property. The NIC, then, is a basic pillar for the empowerment of any woman.”

However, the awareness about the importance of being a registered citizen is growing among Pakistani women. Mahnaz Rahman, Director, Sindh chapter of the Aurat Foundation, says the projects by AF aim to incentivise it in many ways for women. “For example, we tell Muslim women that you need it to go for Hajj otherwise you cannot get a passport to travel for the pilgrimage. There is increased realisation about this among the lower income and middle income strata as well where the women are working to support their families,” she says.

Currently, AF is working on a project aimed at women from non-Muslim communities, encouraging them to get CNICs and in turn to exercise their right to cast the vote.

The BISP has had a positive impact in encouraging women like Kaneez to apply for NICs. “Our surveys show that numbers of women who have registered for the NIC has increased exponentially,” says Hasrat Prakash, Field Supervisor, BISP, in Mithi and Chachro, district Tharparkar, who adds that women are not just going for the ID card but are actually opting for the Smart National Identity Card (SNIC), Pakistan’s first national electronic identity card. The SNIC contains a data chip and many security features.

“BISP now requires biometric verification, which incentivised making of these SNICs. The incentive, of course, is the money stipend. The best part is that more women are now included in the voters’ list, and that more people are registering daughters at birth for the B Form, especially the eldest daughter of each family,” says Prakash.

As mobility still remains a real issue for women, facilitation efforts are being made by various organisations to help them get registered. “If in any locality we find one hundred or more women who need to get registered, Nadra’s mobile van comes there to help us and register women on the spot. There are holistic efforts by the civil society, aid agencies, Nadra and BISP among others, and the situation is comparatively better,” says Rahman, but also adds that more campaigns and efforts are needed for social mobilisation.

“Registering can be a tiresome process and if the people are not highly motivated why would they give up on a week’s daily wages to get an identity card?” says Lari, adding that “the most important thing that needs to be done is make the registration free as well as easier.”

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/get-id-card/#.Wi-XQt-WbIU

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World Environment Day: Parched in the 21st century

Published: June 5, 2013

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n the harsh desert climate, the little rain that Tharparkar receives in the monsoons, if collected in natural depressions or manmade water reservoirs, lasts hardly a few weeks. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Lali’s hands are chafed, as this 11-year-old helps her mother pull out water from an underground well in her village by the help of ropes – water that is almost poison. As people round the globe celebrate World Environment Day, Lali’s biggest dream remains clean water, even if she has to continue to walk three hours daily to get it. Where 89% of the water is unfit for human consumption in this district of Sindh, the dream of this daughter of Tharparkar is almost too idealistic.

A lot has happened in the last two weeks. The lower house of parliament has been sworn and new beginnings are underway. Yet, much is the same for the residents of village Samoo Rind in Tharparkar. They still walk with their spines bent. They still spend hours pulling out water from wells. It is two weeks since The Express Tribune published the story of this village in Tharparkar.

With dangerously contaminated underground water which contains high levels of fluoride and is unfit for human consumption, the result is generations of people crippled and disabled, with multiple health issues.

The only alternative to underground water would be rainwater. In the harsh desert climate, the little rain that Tharparkar receives in the monsoons, if collected in natural depressions or manmade water reservoirs, lasts hardly a few weeks.

A Ray of hope

Following Express Tribune’s story, the Association for Water Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE) working in the area was thrilled when a team of the Pakistan Army reached them after reading the story. “On the second day of the story, a team reached. We are hopeful that the report of the said delegation will have far-reaching effects because at a distance of 24 km from Samoo Rind there is a water supply line of the Pak Army,” shared Wali Mohammad, the Communication Officer at AWARE, after the Army visit.

“We have presented the findings of the visit to our commander along with all the facts and figures. The water samples we collected have been given for laboratory testing. Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has been given the report,” says an Army officer, who was part of the team who visited Samoo Rind, on condition of anonymity.

“For underground water, desalination is the best option and among the available solutions Reverse Osmosis (RO) system is the best method. AWARE mobilised resources from philanthropists and installed a RO plant in 2008. But that is operated on diesel and monthly expenses are Rs50,000 which we cannot afford. The AWARE team got earlier offers for financial support to meet the recurring cost of the RO plant but being local and conscious about repercussions, we decided against temporary solutions. Creating dependency will have its own drawbacks; we don’t want to make our community a parasite,” says Ali Akbar, Executive Director, AWARE.

“Our first recommendation is simple and practical. At a distance of 11 km from the village, there is an electric supply line. If the village gets electricity, the RO plant can become functional,” says the Army officer.

And where is the Sindh Government?

“Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is in a very strong position in Tharparkar now. If they want they can fix this within no time,” says Amar Guriro, President of National Council of Environmental Journalists (NCEJ) and a son of the Tharparkar soil himself. “Jobs and economic security, on the list of priorities, comes after water. This is a basic human right,” adds an impassioned Guriro.

At least some 70 villages in Tharparkar suffer at the hands of unsafe water-borne diseases, and governments come and go, as do promises.

Till the going of this story into press, repeated attempts were made to get a statement from the media department of the Chief Minister House, but no timely response was received.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/559013/world-environment-day-parched-in-the-21st-century/