From Kamran Saqi
Islamabad: At the occasion of National Women’s Day on 12th of February Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has called for increased political participation of women in Pakistan.
Since February 12, 1983, seven governments have been at the helm of affairs but no substantial change could be brought to the status of women. This year, National Women’s Day coincides with the by-election in NA 154 Lodhran-I, where lamentably none of ten candidates is the woman. Further, according to Election Commission of Pakistan, the total number of registered voters in Pakistan has reached to 97.02 million including 54.4 male and 42.2 female voters. CPDI maintains that situation is perturbing as the gap between the number of male and female voters has crossed 12 million.
Stats of CPDI’s election observation reports reveal that despite the long struggle of women for empowerment, their participation in political process remains below average till date. The most recent example is the by-election in PP20 Chakwal-I where CPDI observed low women voter turnout; on average, 14 women voters cast their vote in an hour, on a sampled female polling booth as compared to 20 men on the male booth. ECP’s effort to mobilize women voters and the provisions of section 12 (C) of Elections Act 2017 has not yet paid off. Stakeholders need to take corrective measures to mainstream women in political life.
Raja Shoaib Akbar, Senior program manager at CPDI said that even though women in Pakistan have entered politics, thanks to the quota of reserved seats but still female population of major segments of our society remain alienated from active political participation, a limitation of true representation needs to be taken seriously.
CPDI believes that Socio-cultural and economic barriers restrict women’s participation in the political system. It appears that women are usually faced with similar challenges and barriers i.e. sex segregation, illiteracy, and lack of awareness of their political rights. Moreover, the dominance of patriarchal mindset is deep rooted in our society so it is prevalent in political parties as well. It is about time that political parties proactively contribute to the political inclusion of women. All political parties should adhere to the provisions of new Election Act 2017 by increasing female party membership as suggested in section 203, ensure women nomination on 5% general seats as stated in section 206 and take steps to increase their registration as voters and candidates so that women can enter the mainstream political process. The Election Commission of Pakistan should also constructively engage with the parties to ensure implementation of women related provisions of the Elections Act.