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LAHORE: The Women Development Department Punjab is going to set up “women development centres” in four major public sector universities across the province under which the females would be provided free career counseling and job opportunities besides other facilities.

“Initially, these centres would be established in the Government Collage University (GCU) Lahore, University of Home Economics, Lahore Collage for Women University and Women University Multan,” disclosed Punjab Women Development Minister Ashifa Riaz Fatyana during an interview with Business Recorder on Wednesday.

According to the minister, the MoUs had been signed in this regard and now the WDD is finalizing arrangements to establish these centres in the four public sector varsities. “Since this era is of technology, we had to make some policy changes to educate women about opportunities available on digital platforms and how they could vie men by simply sitting at their homes,” she said.

In this context, the minister said, the WDD during an “intense” Covid-19 wave approached three online marketing giants, including Daraz.pk, Alibaba.com and BFW, and imparted free-of-cost online trainings to hundreds of women with an aim to exploit their business skills and encourage them to do business, even on small scale, as there are a lot of opportunities on digital platforms.

About the recent assault and harassment cases against women, the minister said the Punjab government in collaboration with UN Women Pakistan and some other international policy making institutes had introduced several laws related to women protection. “For this purpose, we are conducting seminars and also displaying flexes inscribed with punishments under the laws for sexual harassment at public and private offices,” she added.

The minister pointed out that it is the dilemma of our society that most of the women don’t dare to come forward and report alleged mistreatment with them or seek medical or legal aid due to various reasons. Keeping in view this scenario, she said, the WDD established a toll-free helpline 1043 through which the females can seek physiological and legal aid 24/7. “The WDD is a law and policy making body and its prime objective to carry out gender budgeting with the assistance of all other state-run departments and stakeholders. But unfortunately this department was running without any well-defined policy since its creation in 2012 due to (alleged) apathy of previous governments,” the minister alleged.

She said the PML-N government established only 64 daycare centres for working women during its four year tenure while the PTI government during its three-year tenure has so far established 221 daycare centres across Punjab.

In 2018 when the PTI government came into power, Ashifa said they took on board all the stakeholders, including international policy making institutes, and launched an “implementation framework” and started its implementation with the help of line departments because the WDD, at that time, was lacking information related to gaps in the existing laws related to ending violence against women.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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