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For women of FATA, life is hard and devoid of basics

For women of FATA, life is hard and devoid of basics

There is a severe shortage of water in major areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, including Landi Kotal. When the men head out to earn a living, the women and young girls of these areas are forced to fetch water from far-flung areas all on their own. Eight-year-old Aasia is forced to abandon school every day only to fetch water for her house from a well that is very dangerous for a young child.

“I do get scared. A lot of children have fallen in the well,” says Aasia while speaking about her daily task”.

Young girls are forced to abandon school every day only to fetch water for their house. Photo: Dunya News

Young girls are forced to abandon school every day only to fetch water for their house. Photo: Dunya News

In a majority of agencies in FATA, women are forced to lead a very difficult life. Deprived of basic necessities, the women and young girls of FATA are in desperate need of the government’s attention.

In the Khyber Agency, deprived of basic needs, there is no institute of higher education for girls. Ayesha, who just recently completed her matriculation, is now teaching young girls stitching and embroidery. Owing to the absence of a higher education institution – a college or a university, she is pursuing her graduation through the Allama Iqbal Open University.

“Girls want to pursue higher education. There should be colleges and universities for them here,” she says while speaking to Dunya News.

Ayesha, who just recently completed her matriculation, is now teaching young girls stitching and embroidery.

The disparities don’t end here. There is only one lady doctor in Khyber Agency because of which women and girls have to travel all the way to Peshawar seeking medical attention.

The article was originally published in Dunya News.

What does the FATA-KP merger mean for women?

What does the FATA-KP merger mean for women?

Merging the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the neighboring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a huge step for the rights of over five million people, living on the troubled and under-developed peripheral areas of Pakistan.

While the integration makes no distinctions, yet women living on the periphery, who are to this day maimed, displaced and brutally killed with impunity should be given special preference moving forward. Ironically, the state and many other humanitarian and advocacy groups (feminists’ networks, international amnesty, and human rights commissions) ignored women living in the border areas. Therefore, it is important that extra-cautious measures be taken to protect their rights and ensure the presence of women in the decision-making process.

For a long time now, the Pakhtun border has been devoid of legal structures. Therefore, a council of village elders (Jirga) in the light of customary practices (Riwaj) deal with most of the issues related to women as personal. The problem here is that the traditional structure in the tribal areas is authoritarian and patriarchal. It is accepting of violence against women as a way to assert dominance. The until-now border “badlands” were also considered a militarized space due to international and regional conflicts. Combine that with the cultural construct, unjust patriarchal judicial system, and the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), all of which pushed women rights down the pecking order.

In such state of affairs, issues, regarding woman, stayed personal and were never allowed to be recorded in the public, which allowed violation of woman’s rights. A woman attending an educational institute, or working in an environment where she freely interacts with men have been considered dishonorable. Similarly, reporting rape is considered ‘shameful’ for the family; reporting domestic violence is tantamount to disloyalty; demanding or talking about rights is too liberated, westernized and a grave sin.

Thus, with the merger, there is a new hope of transformation from the old, patriarchal and inhuman space for women to a more mainstreamed one.

One welcome step is the extension of the judiciary set up to FATA, which would help and correct the inhuman and un-Islamic practices related to women. Article 247(7) of the Constitution excluded the tribal areas from the jurisdiction of the apex court (unless the parliament allows it), hence leaving the tribal people at the mercy of the president, governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and political agents/Sarkari Jirga. With the amendment of the Article 247(7), Pakistani superior courts will be able to protect the fundamental rights of the people such as the right to life, property, liberty, security and fair trial. It will also provide a forum to many aggrieved women against evil traditional practice such as bride-money (walver/rasnama), exchanging woman for murder (badala/weenay), honor killing (ghirat marg), child marriages and forced marriages through masculine roar (ghag). Although, there is a serious apprehension that along with the judiciary extension, the government is trying to retain the old structures with the Riwaj Act, but the good news is that it can be challenged, as it is prescribed in the constitution: “laws inconsistent with or in derogation (exemption) of fundamental rights to be void.” And all such traditional practices related to the women are against human rights and fundamental rights.

The true mainstreaming and integration of the impoverished border areas will be possible only if elected provincial and local government have an adequate women presence. Such women inclusive systems will be able to address the problems of services delivery (that is mostly a woman’s responsibility in the border areas) such as access to clean potable water, sewerage disposal, and health and education. In many areas, women fetch water, collect wood, dispose of human and animal waste and take their children to hospitals and schools.

Let’s hope and pray that the 31 amendment changes the fate of women living near the volatile and impoverished border of Pakistan. Let’s also hope to see more women emerge from these areas as leaders.

The article is originally published in Geo News.

FATA youth demand women’s role in FATA Reforms

FATA youth demand women’s role in FATA Reforms

Students and other young professionals belong to tribal areas demanded, on Friday, that tribal women and should also be given the role the prime minister’s FATA Reforms Committee.

Speaking at a press conference in Peshawar female activists that women and youth are badly ignored in the ongoing reforms process and government, as usual, plays with the sentiments of the tribal people.

Fata Reforms Committee had consulted only those who were near and dear to the political administrations and supported FCR, and those raising voice against the injustices were not heard of.

Samreena Khan Wazir, representative of the FATA Students Organization (FSO) said that the FATA Reforms Committee representatives visited the tribal regions (agencies) but the tribal women and youth were not given a chance to meet them.

Samreena Wazir said the federal government had forgotten sacrifices of the tribal people for protecting the country’s borders.

Tribal youth demand FATA’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwah

The youth activists, including the FSO president Shaukat Aziz, Khyal Zahid, Aziza Mehsud, and others demanded complete abolishment of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) to mainstream FATA.

On the occasion, Shaukat Aziz said the reforms committee was nothing but a lollipop to satisfy the tribal people wrongly.

The article was originally published in “Tribal Post”

Leishmaniasis: A skin disease with no vaccine is on the rise in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Leishmaniasis: A skin disease with no vaccine is on the rise in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

A skin disease caused by a sand fly is on the rise in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Leishmaniasis, the scientific name of the disease, is caused by parasites of the Leishmania type and spread by the bite of certain types of sand flies.

At least 21,000 people have reportedly fallen prey to the disease in the province in just a span of a year.

Doctors Without Borders calls leishmaniasis one of the most dangerous and neglected tropical diseases, according to the HealthLine website.

It is caused by the Leishmania parasite that typically lives in infected sand flies. The infected sand flies are usually found in tropical and subtropical environments. Parts of Asia, East Africa, and South America have witnessed the outbreaks of this disease in the past.

Among seven tribal areas, Khyber is the most affected district, where 9,378 cases have been reported so far. Mohmand is the second high alert area where 5,373 cases have been reported. North Waziristan and South Waziristan are also affected with 443 and 354 patients of this skin disease. As many as 225 people were tested positive in Kurram and 163 and Orakzai.

Similarly, many patients in 10 other districts are also suffering from Leishmaniasis.

The health department of the provincial government has set up 15 centers in seven tribal districts. The sand fly carrying the parasites of the disease traveled all the way from Afghanistan, doctors say.

Doctors have called upon the public to keep their environment clean.

Looking for signs

A sand fly looks like a common mosquito. But it inserts venom into the human skin with a sting. It takes two to four months before inflammation starts. The patient’s skin gets frequently dry and no creams, lotion or ointment helps it.

“The disease starts with minor and painless red acne,” a dermatologist, Dr. Irfan, told SAMAA TV. “The acne seems harmless initially. But it continues to spread.”

The doctors prescribe an antibiotic injection to be administered once or twice a day. The treatment lasts for three weeks. No immunity vaccine for the disease is available at the moment.

“The vaccine is not available in the market,” said Dr. Shaheen, a spokesperson of the health department. “The ones which we have demanded from the World Health Organization is Rs600 per vial.”

The disease has three types: cutaneous (most common), mucocutaneous, and visceral leishmaniasis [most serious and known as kala-azar].

The cutaneous type forms skin ulcers. Mucocutaneous type triggers ulcers of the skin, mouth, and nose, Meanwhile, the visceral type begins with skin ulcers and later develops with fever, low red blood cells, and enlarged spleen and liver.

The disease can be diagnosed by seeing the parasites under a microscope. However, the visceral type can be diagnosed with blood tests as well.

Over 20 species of Leishmania cause infections in human beings.