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Election candidates hire women for door-to-door canvassing

TAXILA: Mehwish Bibi visited 200 houses in Taxila’s Hassan Colony on Monday alone, distributing pamphlets, handbills and voters’ lists among residents of the area.

Mehwish is not the only one canvassing for candidates. She is part of a 35-member team hired by a politician who is vying for a seat in the National Assembly.

Several political leaders are relying on women looking for work to do door-to-door campaign for them.

“I am a science graduate and jobless. After I completed my degree, I opened a tuition academy in my house to support my family. When I came to know that an election candidate was hiring female workers for his door-to-door campaign, I joined his team to earn some extra money,” Mehwish Bibi said.

Zubaida Perveen is also part of Mehwish’s team that is campaigning for their employer.

“All the girls hired by various political parties are highly educated, with some even having a masters’ degree. Since many are jobless, they have readily taken up the assignment,” Ms Perveen said.

She said she knew that this work was just for a few weeks, but it was better than sitting idle at home.

“Our daily wage is just peanuts,” said Kehkashan who was also seen canvassing for a religious party in Wah Cantonment.

Some of the female workers claimed that they had faced harassment at the hands of passersby, house owners and supporters of opponent parties during their door-to-door canvassing.

“I knocked at the door of a house in Malikabad while canvassing for a candidate contesting election for the provincial assembly. When I introduced myself and told the woman in the house that she wanted to give her a pamphlet, she shouted at me and threw the paper on my face,” said a teary-eyed Zeenat Khan, who held her five-month-old baby as she visited house after house.

She said her husband had been jobless for the last many months and she joined the team to earn bread and butter for her family.

She said she was heartbroken with the attitude of the people.

“I have been hired by the candidate for canvassing; if he had failed to come up to the people’s expectations, it was not my fault,” she added.

Another woman, who wished not to be named, narrated a similar ordeal.

She said people who supported other political parties or candidates humiliated them.

“Even the women looked down upon us and did not even offer a glass of water,” said Nighat Ali, a member of the female team canvassing for a candidate.

Talking to Dawn, Prof Mohammad Waqas Khan, a Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) candidate from Wah Cantonment, said due to cultural reasons, women do not attend public meetings. Therefore we hire a number of volunteers, most of them members of the party’s women wing, to reach out to female voters and inform them about the party candidates’ message and manifesto.

PTI general secretary local chapter Shazia Azhar, who is also in charge of the campaign of the party candidate, Azra Masood, for National Assembly’s NA-54 constituency, said as candidates could not go door to door, the party had hired educated youth to do canvassing among female voters.

She was of the view that just as banners were installed and messages were highlighted through social media advertisements, door-to-door canvassing was another traditional method to reach out to masses.

Responding to a question about little wages, she said almost all were volunteers and they were paid so that they could bear their travel and food expenses.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate from NA-54 Syed Qammar Abbas said candidates could reach out to male voters through corner meetings but due to social and cultural hindrances, women could not attend such public meetings.

Therefore, the candidates’ message could only be passed on to them through female volunteers who visited house to house to spread the word.

Source: Dawn