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ISLAMABAD: Aawaz II Programme here on Monday organized a provincial consultation to mark the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) through its provincial partner Peace & Justice Network (PJN) in Punjab.

The consultation, titled “Unite! Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls in Punjab,” brought together over 60 government officials, civil society representatives and Aawaz II forum members to discuss mechanisms for preventing and addressing GBV in the province.

Nabila Hakim Ali Khan, Ombudsperson for Protection of Women against Harassment at the Workplace said: “The office of the Ombudsperson has notified a Rapid Action Task Force to create awareness of the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace and expedite the reporting of cases.

Sumaira Samad, Secretary of Women Development Punjab said, “We must work together to establish comprehensive safety and inclusion mechanisms that empower all women, girls, transgender persons, women with disabilities, and women from religious minorities.”

Dr Yasmin Zaidi, Aawaz II Team Lead, during her opening remarks said, “Leveraging its network of 40,000 volunteers within local communities across 37 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, Aawaz II address the critical issue of gender-based violence, child marriage and intolerance. These dedicated community leaders actively work to empower their communities towards positive change, she added.

Sheikh Muzaffar Akram, representing the Crime and Monitoring Unit of Punjab Police, presented a comprehensive overview of the initiatives undertaken to ensure the safety and security of citizens, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups.

Zaib Wasim, Director, of Social Welfare and Baitul Maal Punjab emphasised that these investments demonstrate the government’s commitment to creating a more just and equitable society for all.

James Hampson, County Director, British Council Pakistan said: Gender-based violence is a serious issue requiring action from all stakeholders. The valuable knowledge gained from our discussions will serve as a guiding light in crafting future strategies to address harmful practices like GBV.

Director PCSW and UNFPA also spoke at the event and emphasized collective efforts from all stakeholders to eliminate gender-based violence at all levels.

Muhammad Irshad Waheed, Director General Women Protection Authority, acknowledged the efforts of Aawaz II for behaviour change among local communities. Participants from Aawaz II target districts urged the appointment and training of staff in the health sector, police, education, and other services to effectively address the needs of women.

They further recommended sensitising protection service providers on gender-based violence response, ensuring the accessibility of helplines for all individuals, including women with disabilities, and promoting widespread dissemination of information on available services for women and girls.

Arshad Mahmood, Head of Programme Delivery for Aawaz II at the British Council, emphasised the urgent need to cultivate local leadership within villages. He affirmed the programme’s unwavering commitment to collaborating with all stakeholders to create a society where women and girls can thrive free from violence.

Aawaz II aims to create awareness and behaviour change and increase citizen-state engagement to promote change in the harmful practices of child marriage, gender-based violence, exclusion, exploitation, and intolerance, he added.

The programme has reached over 34 million individuals with its interventions, including communication campaigns on behaviour change in 37 districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The five-year-long programme is managed by the British Council with support from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

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