ISLAMABAD (15th October 2018): The event titled ‘A policy dialogue on child marriage’ was organized by Bedari in collaboration with Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA) on 1st day during annual Conference on Rural Women. Setting a Joint Agenda for Empowerment and Progress activities, focus on issue of child marriage was placed at the event.
Speaking at the event, Bedari Executive Director, Ms. Anbreen Ajaib said that since issue of child marriages is one of the major barriers for rural girls to participate in decision making and enjoy their rights, we need to work hard to change it all.
Talking about child marriages in socio-cultural context and way forward, Strengthening Participatory Organization Executive Director Saleem Malik said, “A good life is not that you have so many things, a good life is when you make decisions of your life yourself and are free. We have unfortunately accepted that child marriages are good so we need to change such norms already existing.”
Talking about SDGs in her keynote address, Ms. Khalida Ahmad, Educationist and Board member of PODA said, “The Sustainable Development Goals are blueprint to achieve better sustainable future for all. Around 6.2 million of primary aged children are out of schools. State, civil society and families must work together to bring a positive change in the lives of girls and women. No more early marriages should be held.”
Civil society expert working on women’s rights, Mr. Waseem Durrani from Oxfam reflected on child marriage and advocacy asks. He said, “13 percent of girls are married by the time they are 15 and 40 percent by the time they are 18. These social norms can only be changed with the introduction of appropriate norms and presenting communities with alternative pathways.”
Describing the Islamic perspective on child marriage the Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology, Mr. Qibla Ayaz said, “There is no second question to increase the marriageable age for girls, it’s a must. It is a long struggle and we all need to work. I commit to take this issue forward as an Aalim (religious Scholar). Early marriages must be considered a bad act. We must add it to the Friday prayers’ sermon so that a complete discourse could be changed.”
International perspective was given by Ms. Josephine Frantez, Deputy Ambassador of Netherlands Embassy. She shared, “Early marriages take away right of children to live as a child. It also affects economy of a country, when married at a later age they can come forward as a strong workforce. A child before 18 is not capable enough to make the best choices as their minds are still developing.”
Next sessions was about discussion and getting recommendations by participants and were noted one by one. After the discussion, remarks from the co-chair and chair were given.
Final remarks were given by the chair Ms. Mehnaz Aziz, member National Assembly PMLN. She said, “I am glad to see such struggles, I am very committed and I commit that I would take your request letter and forward to my party and women caucus. People treat their sons and daughters differently and discriminate between them. I commit to support you, just provide me with data.”
The event concluded with the participants drafting a resolution with a set of actionable points to ensure policymakers and influencers commit to bringing in amendment and comprehensive laws and policies and ensuring implementation.