The Balochistan assembly recently made headlines around the globe when a female parliamentary leader, Mahjabeen Sheran Baloch was seen participating in a session with her young child in her lap. She was made to leave the session because her male colleagues claimed that the ‘decorum of the assembly is disturbed by having a stranger in the house’, reports the Daily Times. None of her fellow women parliamentarians stood in her support at that moment. Earlier, Sheran had asked the authorities to provide her a room on temporarily basis at least, where she could rest her ill child and not miss the important assembly session. Her exact words quoted by various news platforms were, “I could not leave my ailing child alone nor could afford to miss the assembly session.”
The scenario took the mainstream and social media by storm with many politicians coming up in support of Sheran from around the country and abroad. Human rights and social media activists soon joined the conversations on the internet, mostly on Twitter. Most of these views went in favor of her. Examples of women parliamentarians attending sessions with their children in other parts of the world were brought to the limelight, such as Larrisa Waters, an Austrian parliamentarian who had once brought her 2 months old daughter to the session and was also seen breastfeeding the child during the proceedings.
Resiliently, Sheran opted to start a campaign for the establishment of Child Day Care Centre/s in assemblies in Pakistan and again her effort was applauded by numerous including the government, media and public. A month later, on June 13, her justified campaign led to the establishment of the first day care center at the Balochistan Assembly which now happens to be the Pakistan’s first provincial assembly with a child day care center.
The Chief Minister of Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan said that the day care center has been initiated to facilitate women parliamentarians by allowing them to give equal time to their children and work.
Sheran’s movement in a broader perspective have motivated working women in Pakistan to stand up for their needs whenever and wherever necessary and not compromise on family and work in situations where a solution is possible. The Balochistan assembly has in literal terms created a family friendly environment for its women workforce that now stands as a model for other provincial assemblies.
Another milestone came few days later from the National Assembly where the Standing Committee on Human Rights approved a bill that makes it compulsory for every public or private sector office with 25 or more staff members to establish a daycare. The Day Care Centers Bill 2019, moved by MNA Shazia Marri, also stated that non-compliance of the bill could first lead to warning, followed by a fine of Rs100, 000 and then six months in prison.
In a nutshell, a revolutionary move of this magnitude coming to the front from Balochistan is itself a moment of achievement. On the popular perspective, women in Balochistan do not leave their houses for work and are discouraged by the local society for all her professional whereabouts, but then here we have a resilient mother, a change maker who goes against all odds to get her rights proving the narratives wrong with an inviolable example. ‘A mother towards change is a society towards change.’