KARACHI: Government officials, representing different departments, economists, academia and educationists urged upon the concerned state authorities to ensure protection of heritage buildings and places to promote culture and tourism. They pointed out that there is ignorant approach regarding culture heritage buildings and the important national sites are being encroached upon.
They were speaking at a consultation meeting with government officials of Sindh on “International commitments and state obligations for Citizens rights” at a local hotel on Tuesday. The event was organised by Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), which is working on various thematic areas, including economic, social, culture rights, gender equality, environment, minority affairs, policy issues and political education.
The participants represented government departments, include Social Welfare Department, Labour Department, Planning and Development department, Provincial Ombudsman, Women development department, Reforms Support Unit, Cultural and tourism department, Education, local government, health department, Human rights etc. They also realised that there is lack of coordination within government departments. That is why if one sector is working and achieving a task the other department does not know about it. That is why mostly civil society people take objections and it seems as if there is no role of the government. But, they said exactly there is more contribution at government level but it should be made public and let the people know.
Ms Fareeda Mahesar, Ms. Prih Mangi, Ms. Riaz Fatima, all the government officials led thee groups, like social, economic and culture and designed recommendations for authorities to remove the gaps. The government officials claim that there are 12 child protection units working in Sindh. They said that children are vulnerable because of abuse and violations. There should be more child protection centers with coordination with government and other society forums to avoid any chance of violation.
Ms Rabia of Oxfam , giving her reaction said: “We cannot claim to bring change. But actually, it is effort to make betterment in the society.” She said civil society itself cannot work alone, as it needs support from government. In this regard, she asked the government officials to extend their cooperation to work together for betterment. Earlier, Ms Raheema Panhwar, SPO Program Specialist gave overview of the meeting. She pointed out, quoting the observations of private sector institutions that there are gaps within government offices to follow the international laws, which the government itself has ratified.
Some officials gave reactions that since these laws portrayed here are old, there should be a new thing for their learning. In this regard, they said their respective departments are already working on these pointed areas and this should be realised, while criticising them. They said there is a gap between the public and private sectors, like civil society which should be filled through confidence building. For example, they said they have certain committees within government to monitor the working and they have reports to show with achievements.
Ms Raheema said SPO is working on 11 areas, including human rights, minority affairs, environment, cultural diversity, education, health, right to employment, gender equality and policy level issues, keeping in mind the international conventions and what Pakistan government is contributing.
She said women workers are not being dealt with properly at workplaces, specially in government offices and some of women even do not have proper chairs in offices. She said Pakistan has also signed with ILO about certain issues like bonded labour abolition and child labour, and protection of women workers, which should be followed to avoid any uncertainty. Besides this, basic health right should be made part of constitution and follow up policy in Sindh province, because health indicator shows different picture in rural areas in Sindh province.
SPO’s Programme Specialist Wahid Sangrasi shared the recommendations collected through different meetings and seminars, which are related to the themes. The recommendations regarding minimum wages, gender gap in employment, exploitation of women cotton pickers and other rural workforce, who do not get wages according to declared minimum wages.
In this regard, he said trade unions should be educated and their capacity should be strengthened so that they may take initiative for bargaining to ensure rights of workers. He said there might be contribution at individual level but not collectively. He urged government officials to share their contribution to remove gaps and collect further recommendations to remove gaps.
Wahid said they are working with 16 political parties in Sindh for few years but there might be a majority of activists who do not know the human, political, social, cultural and citizen rights, which are protected in the constitution. He said that their organisation has taken initiative quite recently to ensure security cover to 2000 workers in two districts, Mirpurkhas and Dadu. According to him, there is no problem for government and private institutions to ensure the right of employee or worker. There is need of will to show for this cause. Wahid shared recommendations focusing on three areas like economic, social and cultural. Later three groups were formed to discuss and identify gaps and suggest recommendations, keeping in mind these three areas. Hamza Salman of SPO Islamabad and others also spoke on the occasion.