ISLAMABAD: It is important to take stock of the critical advancements that have been made towards the promotion and protection of human rights in Pakistan, as well as the barriers and obstacles that we have to overcome at an institutional and societal level to ensure that every citizen can live a life in which their integral human dignity and their rights are respected, said the Federal Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari at an event to mark the International Human Rights Day and culmination of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign in Pakistan. The event was jointly hosted by the Ministry of Human Rights and UN Women at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Crisis Centre (SBBCC) in Islamabad on Thursday, where survivors of violence shared their experiences and gave suggestions on how institutions and duty-bearers can be more responsive to them.Representatives from legal fraternity, police, civil society, government officials, and UN and diplomatic community attended the event which was held both online and in-person. A video of an acid survivor’s journey and her struggle to get the perpetrator behind bars was also shown during the event to highlight the plight of survivors as well as shine light on their courage and resilience.“With an emphasis on overcoming gaps in legislation, strengthening implementation, and increasing awareness about human rights, the Ministry of Human Rights is committed to upholding the human rights enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan,” remarked the Minister.The Minister also inaugurated a computer lab at SBBCC, established with support from UN Women Pakistan, where residents will be taken through several computer skills with an objective to rehabilitate and enable them to fight poverty and become independent citizens.16 Days of Activism against GBV is a global campaign that takes place each year from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10th December, International Human Rights Day, highlighting the continued prevalence of violence against women worldwide and the need to take concerted action to prevent and respond to it. The campaign is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.Given the COVID-19 pandemic situation, this year’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism against GBV was “Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” that called for global actions to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.“Today’s event brought together diverse stakeholders impacted by, and working to end, violence against women in Pakistan,” stated Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Wendy Gilmour. “It was a valuable exchange and will help ensure that ongoing efforts to strengthen systems and services are informed by, and responsive to, survivors and their needs”.Joanne Frederiksen, Deputy High Commissioner of Australia in Pakistan, said, “Gender-based violence is a barrier to lasting peace, a burden on economies and a violation of human rights. It is a global challenge, that while serious at any time, is particularly devastating during COVID-19 when access to help is limited. Today may mark the end of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to eliminate gender-based violence, but Australia’s advocacy and support in Pakistan will continue year-round. After all, to live free from violence is a basic human right.”Country Representative UN Women Pakistan Sharmeela Rassool in her remarks deliberated on the issue of increasing incidence of GBV in Pakistan especially an escalation during the pandemic. She said, “Women face numerous problems, and among the most serious is violence, which is a grave violation of human rights. The problem of gender-based violence that is affecting Pakistan is global, and of pandemic nature. One in three women experience violence in their lives. We need to have a holistic approach and it should be business of everybody to deal with it,” said Sharmeela, who was attending the event from Violence Against Women Centre in Multan, where a similar activity was hosted by UN Women and both events were interconnected to share best practices in order to help women survivors living in shelters rehabilitate and reintegrate in the society and explore their potentials.Sharmeela stressed the need for robust coordination mechanisms across sectors and between the provinces and the federation to help GBV survivors access speedy justice as well as quality essential services to face the challenges. She informed the audience that during this year’s campaign, UN Women adopted a different approach and not only involved all stakeholders including legislators, judiciary, police, religious leaders, private sector, civil society and academia to identify collaborative and coordinated solutions to reform and strengthen the justice system but also took pledges to advance efforts for effective and sustainable measures to address the issue of violence.“UN Women will continue to monitor progress made on the commitments by all stakeholders and help strengthen processes and services for survivors’ access to justice as well as undertake awareness-raising and advocacy for both the promulgation and implementation of laws in order to ensure that survivors are rehabilitated and reintegrated in society and lead a better life with respect and dignity,” she remarked.