Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Forced Marriage!

Main ne bi pass hoana hai...........


Pakistan’s first female football club...


Pakistan’s first female football club breaks down cultural barriers.

By Heather Sutliff

KARACHI, Pakistan, 14 April 2011- On a scorching, early morning in Karachi, a dozen girls - some wearing shawls and burqas in the blistering heat - arrive in a large walled field, ready to practice football. Their eagerness is evident as they enthusiastically remove their burqas to reveal their practice uniforms. Hurriedly, they put on their cleats and run out to the field to meet their head coach, Sadia Sheikh.

UNICEF correspondent Natasha De Sousa reports on Pakistani girls who are challenging gender stereotypes through sport. Watch in RealPlayer
These girls are members of Pakistan’s first female football club, Diya, and they are ready to play.

“The football field provides girls with a place to breathe – to get away from their daily tensions, and focus on an activity that will make them confident, healthy and strong,” explained Sadia Sheikh, who founded Diya in 2003. Diya is the only female club started and managed by women.

Gaining support

In Pakistan, there is a general lack of support for girls who want to do more than get married and become mothers. Girls face many obstacles including poverty, lack of access to education, and cultural barriers which prohibit or restrict their freedom of movement and pursuit of their dreams.

By showing up for practice today, these girls have already triumphed. They have gained the support of their families and community. Some have even travelled alone on public transportation – often frowned upon by traditional male members of society.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/De Sousa
17 year old Hajra used to practice football alone in her room. Now she has her eyes on a spot in the national Pakistani women’s football team.

“It’s not just about the game. In this club, we get to mix with girls from other backgrounds, poor, rich, Christian, Muslim. We even get to play with girls from other countries. It’s very supportive, it’s a safe environment, and we support each other,” said Hajra Khan, 17.

Since Diya was founded in 2003, girls’ football clubs in Pakistan have increased to around 16 including clubs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan now has a national female football team which was provisionally included in FIFA’s global female ranking system in 2010.

‘We can do anything’

UNICEF has found that sports programs are an excellent way to reach out to girls – to encourage education, support achievements, enable girls to challenge gender stereotypes and have a voice within their families and society. This is particularly true for adolescent girls across the developing world.

“When my father fell sick I was in class six and there wasn’t money for me to continue school along with my brothers. Because I was a strong athlete, Diya recruited me and provided me with a scholarship so that I could play sports and go to school. I am now studying in Class ten. My family only agreed to support my further education after it was free,” said Fauzia Naz, a 16-year- old footballer.

Fauzia also is a part-time coach at a private elementary school. As a coach, she is not only encouraging other young girls to participate in sports, but earns a small income to help support her mother and brothers.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/De Sousa
Like many of her teammates, Fatima dons a burqa and shawl over her football clothes before and after practice so that she can more easily travel on public transport.

“Just like boys, girls can become doctors, lawyers, we can do anything if we have the support. We just want to have the same opportunities,” asserted Fatima Ansari, 15.

Breaking the cycle

Although some progress in social acceptance of girls’ sports teams has been made over the last decade, huge disparities exist when compared to sport opportunities for boys and for sports activities for girls living in poor rural areas.

These same disparities exist in girls’ education. UNICEF estimates that over 100 million children of primary school age were out of school in 2008, 52 per cent of which were girls

According to UNICEF’s SOWC 2011 report, changing the cycle of poverty and gender discrimination must include significant investment in adolescents - especially girls. Improving access to education and economic opportunities will empower girls and provide them with a stronger voice in decisions about marriage, birth spacing and effective ways to raise healthy, productive children.

“Change won’t happen overnight, but I am encouraged by how these girls are skilfully navigating and overcoming social barriers and expanding opportunities for girls. Every time they show-up to practice, they graduate into another class, support other girls, or score on the field they are showing us all what is possible, and living their dreams,” said Sadia.

UNICEF - Pakistan - Pakistan

Women should know they don't need to tolerate abuse!!!

FAISALABAD: Violence against women is increasingly prevalent in all spheres of society, according to a recently released in-depth report on the subject.
A team of social scientists at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) recently released a study on “Domestic Violence – Rural-Urban Current Age and Age at Marriage Differential Impact on Women’s Physical Health in Punjab.” The team headed by Faculty of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Dean Prof Muhammad Iqbal Zafar, with Prof Ashfaq Ahmad Maan, Fawad Asif and Munir Ahmad observed that violence against women has increased considerably over the past five years.
Generally, victims of domestic violence were found to be young and middle-aged adults. Several studies found an increased likelihood of abuse among women of age groups 15 to 19, 20 to 24, and 25 to 29 years. The report stated that married women in age group of 20 to 24 years are more likely to be abused than women aged 25 to 29 years. Women in age group of 15 to 19 years have an increased likelihood of falling victim to honour killings by blood relatives.
The study also revealed that the likelihood of domestic abuse decreases considerably in women above the age of 50. Those in age group 40 to 44 and 45 to 49 reported fewer instances of spousal abuse. “We also expect an increase in domestic abuse in newly married women between the age group of 20 to 29. Our data indicates that this is exceedingly common in Southern Punjab and several areas of Sindh,” said Zafar.
The researchers stated that a girl’s marriageable age played an important part in the understanding the risk factors that influence domestic abuse.
“The younger the girl is at the time of her marriage the less she knows about her rights. Young girls often consider domestic abuse to be the norm and put up with it for this reason,” Prof Maan said. Evidence from earlier studies concluded that girls who marry early (before the age of 18) are more likely to experience domestic violence.
The study also found that instances of domestic violence were considerably fewer among women who married at a later age. Women who married after the age of 24 were 44 per cent less likely to be abused than women who married under the age of 19.
“This research used a statistically valid random sample of 800 married women to classify the type of violence, frequency of the incident and severity of violence against married women in two district of Punjab,” Zafar said. Out of the 34 district of the Punjab two districts, Faisalabad and Narowal, were randomly selected for analysis. From each selected district two teshsils representing an urban or rural setting were listed and these included Faisalabad city and Samundari from Faisalabad and Narowal city and Shakargarh from Narowal.
Finally using a lottery method, an equal number of married households from each rural and urban area were randomly drawn.
Then numbers for each selected teshil, the total number of urban, rural union councils were calculated on the basis of an urban or rural setting census report.
With regard to the age-at-first marriage, over two thirds of women (68.6 per cent) and less than one per cent of men had their first marriage before reaching the age of 20. The majority of men (44.8 per cent) had their first marriage after celebrating their 25th birthday, compared with only 11.1 per cent of women. The study revealed that “physical violence may cause deep scars on the victims and could permanently damage or impair their mental health”. The respondents were asked about health problems they had suffered due to physical abuse during the last 12 months. Many respondents reported physical violence incidences that resulted in medical conditions such abdominal, thoraces injuries, bruises and welt’s, chronic pain, ocular damages, fibromyalgia and fractures.
The study concluded that gender based violence takes many different forms and there may be distinctive patterns or manifestations of gender violence associated with particular cultures, work status, number of spouses and marriages. “However, gender violence is present in all contexts of cultural, socio-economic and political power relations, which reduces women to economic and emotional dependency,” Maan said.
The experts made a number of recommendations to overcome violence against the women and said that marriageable age of young women should not be less then 22 years. “The biggest problem we found was absolute economic dependence on the man. Nearly all the women we interviewed continued to put up with abuse for years simply because they depend on their husbands for financial support and for their children,” said Prof Asif.
The report recommends that public and private institutions establish and implement model protocols for the early identification and referral of abuse victims in health care settings.
“Someone needs to report incidents of abuse to the police and women should not be encouraged to return to abusive husbands simply because of societal pressures,” said Dr Munif Ahmed.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2011.