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Call to promote women’s participation in elections

Karachi: The Aurat Foundation and the Democracy Reporting International (DRI) have called on different branches of the state to provide gender-disaggregated data, meaningfully consult with women’s groups and undertake additional special measures to promote women’s political participation in Pakistan.

In a jointly produced paper “Women’s participation in the upcoming 2013 elections: Pakistan’s international law commitments under CEDAW”, the Aurat Foundation and DRI presented recommendations aimed at improving fulfillment of women’s right to participate in political and public life as enshrined in the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Aurat Foundation and the DRI have identified areas where Pakistan is not compliant with the requirements for the political participation of women protected under CEDAW, which was ratified by Pakistan in 1996.

Significant problems in Pakistan persist with regard to participation of women as voters and as candidates. Only 20 per cent of the National Assembly members and 18 per cent of the provincial assemblies are women. Merely, three percent of directly elected seats are held by women in the National and the provincial assemblies.

Moreover, there are reportedly 11 million fewer women registered as voters than men in the electoral rolls.

The Aurat Foundation and the DRI have recommend that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) provide publicly accessible gender-disaggregated data broken down by administrative units in order to enable effective scrutiny of women’s political participation; and that political parties be required to publicly provide regular and standardized information about the number and proportion of women in their executive and leadership positions.

Consultations with women’s groups could also be carried out to discuss how legislation and administrative regulations can be improved to facilitate greater participation of women in the electoral process.

The ECP carries special responsibility to promote greater participation and in protecting the rights of women voters. It could carry out specialized voter education; increase the integrity of polling stations, improve accessibility to polling (including through recruitment of female staff), undertake stronger action against those curtailing the rights of women voters, and promote scrutiny by women observers and agents.

Maria Rashid from Rozan stated that the joint Aurat-DRI briefing paper came at an opportune time when elections were around the corner and many reforms relating to women’s participation in elections remained unaddressed.

Meanwhile, speakers at the Women’s Leadership Forum called on the government to ensure development, political empowerment and leadership for women politicians.

The event was jointly organised by the Search for Common Ground Pakistan and the Insan Foundation Trust to mark the International Women’s Day (March 8) with foreground celebrations on the achievements of women leaders, especially from the provincial assemblies of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh and the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA).

“Women parliamentarians need to connect with women bureaucrats and common women of the country to establish strong communication networking among themselves,” said Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa during her keynote address.

She also launched the nationwide campaign entitled “Women’s Initiative for Learning and Leadership (WILL)” on the occasion.

Source: The News