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No woman cast vote at 500 polling stations

ISLAMABAD: Women voters’ turnout remained around 44 per cent in May 11 elections, while there were some 500 polling stations where women’s turnout was zero while 11 female returning officers were appointed during the elections.

Officials of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shared this here at an event. UN Women under a joint project (Electoral Cycle Support to the Election Commission of Pakistan) with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held a “National Consultation-lessons learned for enhancing women’s participation in political processes” Tuesday.

Deputy Representative OIC of UN Women Pakistan, Sangeeta Thapa, in her welcome address shared that it is the mandate of UN Women to support women’s participation in electoral processes and as a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Pakistan is also responsible to report this progress at international forums.

Justice (Retd) Shahzad Akbar, Member ECP, speaking at the event highlighted the efforts of ECP in facilitating women political participation by setting up increased number of polling stations as compared to 2008 elections and within the proximity of 2 kilometres, making women photographs on CNIC mandatory and, door to door voter registration and verification campaign to name a few. He further added that for the first time polling station and constituency-wise sex disaggregated voters turnout will be made available by ECP.

Additional Secretary Sher Afghan emphasised the importance of women’s political participation and highlighted some important statistics. He shared that it was encouraging to see that around 456 women contested the election, women voters turnout was around 44 per cent and 11 female returning officers were appointed. However, he deplored the fact that there were some 500 polling stations where women’s turnout was zero and assured that ECP would take measures to increase women’s participation in those polling stations in future.

Kishwar Naheed, member National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW), observed that current policy and legislation for supporting women needs to be reviewed, however there are still many women who are disenfranchised due to cultural reasons. It is, therefore, important to have laws declaring results null and void in those constituencies where women are not allowed to vote.

Aamina Qadir Adham, Senior Gender Advisor UN Women, presented the key initiatives by UN Women for supporting ECP in mobilising women, minorities and youth in 20 districts of Pakistan and reached out to more than one million women. She also highlighted efforts of UN Women for engendering the electoral process including setting up mechanisms for sex-disaggregated data.

Dr Kay Nagata, Representative UNESCO, FarzanaYaqoob, Minister Women Development AJK also shared their views.

The participants of national consultation including presiding officers, women and transgender candidates and first time voters made important recommendations for women participation in electoral process in Pakistan. These recommendations included providing security to women polling staff, women candidates and voters during the election campaign and most importantly on the polling day.

Participants also shared challenges faced by women during elections. To address some of these challenges it was recommended that more women should be encouraged by the political parties to contest election on general seats. Civic and voter education should be part of syllabus and ECP should take proactive measures for women voter education across Pakistan. Participants suggested that ECP should ensure strict implementation of code of conduct and laws related to elections particularly campaign budget.

Theater performance by AGAHE Rahim Yar Khan group highlighted issues and challenges faced by women voters and candidates..

The Nation

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