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High women turnout expected in Swat

MINGORA, May 3: Activists of all major political parties’ women wings are seen convincing women in Swat to vote for their candidates and thus, suggesting that environment is encouraging for women to step out on May 11 and exercise their franchise.Organiser of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Malakand division’s women wing Shah Ezzat Bibi told Dawn on Friday that a real change would be seen in Swat this time around as women in the district would cast vote in large numbers.

She said women wing of her party had begun election campaign in the district much before the schedule of the May 11 elections was announced.

“We have been in contact with women voters for five months and it is encouraging that women are giving us a positive response,” she said, adding that the turnout of women voters would be higher this time around.

Ms Shah Ezzat said women were taking keen interest in elections and many of them wanted to know how to vote.

“Our campaigners are educating women about how to vote and the significance of vote,” he said.

She said she expected that a record number of women would turn to polling stations to exercise their right to vote.

“Women are in high spirits and have resolved to cast vote on May 11,” she said.

Pakistan Peoples Party’ campaigner and ex-president of PPP women wing, Swat Naseem Akhtar Khankhel said gone were the days when men used to decide about women voting.

“Now, there is a change in society. Women are educated about their rights, especially right to vote,” she said.

Ms Naseem said in the past, political parties and their candidates had signed agreements to stop women from casting vote but the situation had quite changed as women were more aware of the importance of their votes compared with the past.

She praised the Election Commission of Pakistan for taking concert steps to ensure the women’s participation in the May 11 polls.

“Besides political awareness, the media has also played an important role and we are hopeful that the turnout of women voters will be higher than that of men,” she said.

The only candidate of Pakistan People’s Party for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s reserved seat from Swat, Mrs Naseem said her party activists were motivating women to step out on May 11 and vote for her party.

“I am hopeful that majority of women voters will go to polling stations and vote for PPP. We’ve been receiving a positive response from women, who have benefited from Benazir Income Support Programme,” she said.

The PPP campaigner said Swat was more peaceful than any other part of the country and that women didn’t face any difficulty or threat during election campaign.

“We are moving from Landakai, the entrance point of Swat, to Kalam Valley without fear,” she said.

Beside political parties, some nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) are also holding door-to-door campaigns to motivate women to use their right to vote.

Activists of Policy Research and Development Organisation are going from door to door to educate women about the importance of their vote.

A woman voter from Gunbad Maira, Mingora city, said women were fully aware of their right to vote and how to use it.

“We will cast votes this time around of our own free will if male members of our families allow us to do so,” she said.

Source: Dawn

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