ISLAMABAD: Women Parliamentarians on Friday stressed for inclusive and gender sensitized election manifestoes for Elections 2018.
The demand was made at the launch “Gender Action Manifesto”, a policy paper, published by Heinrich Böll Stiftung, a German Foundation. The “Gender Action Manifesto”, co-authored by Prof Dr Andrea Fleschenberg and Rabeea Hadi, has been prepared based on debates, discussions and recommendations made during national consultation process.
The Manifesto has two parts. The first part reviews the manifestos of the years 2008 to 2013 of all major political parties wherein Rabeea Hadi, has identified gaps in gender-specific commitments and subsequent actions with regard to legislation in political party manifestos.
While, in the second part, Dr Andrea Fleschenberg, discusses in detail the policy-level framework through putting spotlights on Access: agenda-setting for women’s political participation and empowerment; Presence: agenda-setting for women-specific legislation and policy-making; and Influence: agenda-setting for women in decision-making in bureaucracy, judiciary, and law enforcement.
The study reveals that in past manifestoes, the commitments made by political parties regarding women were of a general nature rather than outlining concrete commitments and detailed gender actions in the manifestos.
Secondly, the manifestos, in general, represent gender in a separate section. The study recommends that for the purpose of genuine gender mainstreaming, it would have been appropriate to integrate gender-specific issues and commitments as a crosscutting thematic and analytical aspect in all manifesto areas.
The analysis shows that the manifesto of the PML-F, however, has comparatively well-integrated women’s concerns as crosscutting in the main thematic areas while the PTI has also provided substantial provisions for women in its gender policy. So far only a few political parties share progressive manifestos from a gender-based rights perspective namely, the MQM, ANP, and PPPP. The ruling PML-N has a generic stance and fails to show a clear gender link with key structural areas and social sectors.
Furthermore, the study highlights lack of favourable working environment and infrastructure within the political parties and beyond, such as office structures, operational and technical support for women party workers and parliamentarians provided by the political parties themselves. It says that manifestos also fall short of discussing how political parties could develop a political nexus within their domain to discuss women-related issues.
Another blind spot or gap identified by the report within political party manifestos is the issue of gender budgeting. The political parties generally do not have budgetary allocations outlined for women legislators, their constituencies and capacity building or respective legislation and policy-making commitments.
The study suggests direct election of reserved seats for women in national and provincial assemblies as well as for a reduction and monitoring of election campaign expenses. It demands that political party manifestos should be clear and detailed on the role of and commitment to women legislators at the national and provincial levels.
The launch event was attended by women Parliamentarians, researchers, academicians and rights activists. Besides thought provoking speeches, the event also included presentation of findings and a panel discussion around the issue.
The panel discussion included Deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly Syeda Shehla Raza, MNA Nafisa Khattak (PTI), Senator Sitara Ayaz(ANP), MNA Aasiya Nasir (JUI-F), MNA Dr Fouzia Hameed (MQM), MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi (PML F), MNA Arifa Khalid Pervaiz and MNA Aisha Syed (JI).
Speakers were of the opinion that political parties have not clearly considered the role(s) and significance women play within their organisations. However, women legislators’ parliamentary presence has been impactful in terms of legislations put on assemblies’ agenda, drafted and passed as well as with highlighting women’s issues in parliamentary and public debates.
Speaking on the occasion, Jacqueline Wilk, HBS Regional Coordinator, said that with election fever around, this was an ideal time for civil society, women’s rights activists and female politicians themselves to seek more commitments and resolves from political parties in their respective manifestos.
“We hope that the “Gender Action Manifesto” will not only provide political leadership, experts and practitioners a deeper understanding of policy level issues pertaining to women and gender, but also help political parties at federal and provincial levels to formulate their policies and laws through a gender lens,” she said.
Deputy Head of Mission for German Embassy Jens Jokisch said that Germany has also experience decline in the percentage of women in the Parliament which is currently 31 percent. “This must be 50 per cent if we want our legislator a true representative of overall population,” he said adding that the focus of the German government is to bring women on quotas in the mainstream economy such as in the board of governors of organizations. He said the true potential of a country could be unleashed only through empowering women.
Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz stressed the need to first registering women as voters. She urged women political leaders to ensure that party leadership is reaching out to women directly on the basis of issues related to women.