International Women’s Day Observed by Baloch, Ahwazis, Azeris and Turkomans:
Toronto: A joint session of Baloch, Ahwazi Arabs, South Azerbaijanis and Turkomans observed the International Women’s Day to emphasize the growing role of women in the struggles for social justice, equality and national emancipation of oppressed nations of the world.
Speakers belonging to Baloch, Ahwazi, Azeri and Turkoman communities paid rich tribute to women who are in the forefront to end gender bias, violence, discrimination and inequality in the world as well as in Canada regarding aboriginal women.
Full Text of Speech by BHRC (Canada) Spokesperson, Mrs. Mumtaz Baloch:
International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions; whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.
This year’s theme, “Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!” envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.
Today Baluch women live in a society where they are denied access to basic education due to barriers such as culture, lack of resources and political/religious repression against the nation of Baluch. It is not that the women of Baluchistan are not aware of their rights but unfortunately most are wed off at an early age into arranged or forced marriages where their counterparts may lack the level of social awareness to understand the role she is destined to play in the uplift of the Baluch society.
In the tribal, rural and semi-urban areas of Baluchistan, the female literacy rate stands between 3 per cent and 8 per cent, the primary completion rate for female is only 66% according to World Bank report. In the Pakistani occupied Baluchistan, investing in educating a daughter is considered akin to watering the neighbors’ tree, as per the eastern traditions women are confined to limited roles she plays inside the home, thereby wasting the resources used to educate her.
Each year 1000 women are killed in the name of honor, thousands are raped, suffer domestic violence and denied right to live. Today a woman does not feel safe to walk alone outside her home without an escort, in a growing country like India for the fear of being molested. Honor killing is the worst practise against the women in any society, yet it is taking place in the name of culture and religion based on patriarchal views and right over her.
Women produce most of the world’s food, make up a third of the official labour force and care for families and homes. And yet women and girls bear the brunt of poverty in all aspects of their lives. When it comes to poverty, gender matters!
Today, Baluchistan as a nation is going through a critical phase in our history where women are playing a pivotal role in the changing political landscape of the region. Baluch women activists namely, Karima Baloch (Vice Chairperson, Baloch Students Organization-Azad); Farzana Majid (Secretary General, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons); Professor Naela Qadri (World Baloch Women’s Forum); London-based Mahdem Baloch, and Muneera Sulemani (Baluchistan Peoples Party – Iran) are just a few among the many emerging faces of the struggle in Balochistan, raising the national consciousness to a higher level.
Recently, on March 4, 2015, Abdul Qadeer Baloch, Vice Chairperson VBMP and Farzana Majeed, Secretary General, VBMP were stopped by the Pakistani authorities from boarding a New York-bound flight to attend a conference on human rights. Farzana Majeed and Abdul Qadeer Baloch were told by the authorities that their names were on the ‘Exit Control List’ and barred from any travel outside the country. The reason for this travel-ban officially conveyed to Farzana Majeed and Qadeer Baloch was that both were allegedly involved in anti-state activities and are a threat to the stability of Pakistan.
It is amazing how a nuclear-armed Pakistan is fearful of a young Baloch woman and a 73-year-old man who simply want to go and tell the world about the state atrocities committed against Baloch civilians. We strongly condemn the travel-ban on VBMP leaders and ask the international community to intervene in this matter for an end to the illegal methods employed by Pakistan to suffocate Baloch voices for justice and freedom.
To conclude my thoughts on this subject, I shall quote the late Mahatma Gandhi:
“Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity…
If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior…
If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women…”