AWID Statement On The Post-Floods Humanitarian Crisis In Pakistan, August 2010
The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is gravely concerned by the tremendous losses of life and livelihoods and ongoing humanitarian crisis triggered by the worst floods in Pakistan’s history.
We stand in solidarity with all the women, men and children of Pakistan during this difficult time. In particular, we send a message of solidarity to the women of Pakistan, who for many years have contributed to upholding the struggle for peace and democracy throughout the country, and who continue to struggle for survival in the face of this unprecedented crisis.
Whilst the flooding has had a devastating impact on everyone in Pakistan with an estimated twenty million people displaced, and one-fifth of the country underwater, women are particularly affected. Due to gender norms that marginalize them, women and girls are more likely to fall through the gaps of emergency relief and reconstruction processes. They are often denied access to the provision of food relief and reproductive health services, while female-headed households, pregnant women and those with infants are particularly at risk. In post-disaster situations women also face an increased threat of violence, including sexual violence.
Many of the flood-affected areas of Pakistan have spent years in conflict marked by rising religious fundamentalisms. Reports from the ground indicate that fundamentalist groups are mobilizing aid and providing relief services in areas unreachable by the government with potentially dangerous implications for women’s rights. While it is clear that the scope of the current crisis is beyond the capacity of the Pakistani government to address and that fundamentalist organizations are attempting to fill this gap, there are many other groups engaged in fundraising and delivering emergency relief on the ground who are working from a human rights perspective and whose efforts require vital support (please see a short list below). Pakistani women’s organizations are also reporting that women and children are missing in significant numbers, which could mean they have been kidnapped. Women in the rural areas of Pakistan are among the most disadvantaged with particular difficulties in accessing relief and reconstruction support.
Despite these challenges, women have a vital role to play in the reconstruction of Pakistan. Women hold valuable skills and knowledge on community mobilization, coping strategies and local resources. In their roles as economic actors, as caregivers and as leaders, they are essential to rebuilding a just and inclusive Pakistan. As supporters and facilitators of Pakistani women’s participation in the reconstruction process, Pakistani women’s organizations must also be central actors to efforts on the ground.
AWID therefore calls upon the government of Pakistan and the international community to take immediate action to ensure that the very much-needed aid is committed and actually delivered in a timely and effective fashion. Also, the well-being of women and girls has to be ensured through the provision of both emergency relief and significant longer-term support for reconstruction and development that responds to the gender-specific needs and circumstances of Pakistani women and girls. In particular, we call for the full participation of women at all levels of reconstruction and for sustained efforts to be centered on the long-term development needs of women and girls and the promotion and protection of their human rights.
Links to some of the women’s organizations working in Pakistan or doing resource mobilization to support relief efforts there:
Shirkat Gah: http://www.shirkatgah.org/news.php?id=202
Aware Girls: http://awaregirls.webs.com/contactus.htm
Global Fund for Women: https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6174/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=2574
Women’s Learning Partnership: http://www.learningpartnership.org/en/partners/pakistan/flood-relief