With another by-election not featuring any woman candidate and a growing gap between registered male and female voters, there is a need to bring women into the political mainstream.
The call was made by the Centre for Peace and Development (CPDI), an independent not-for-profit civil society organisation working on issues of development and peace, on the eve of National Women’s Day.
CPDI noted that since 1983, seven governments have come and gone but there has been no substantial change in the status of women — apart from one that Pakistan got a woman prime minister.
Even as National Women’s Day is observed, a by-election in NA-154 Lodhran-I — where ten candidates are competing for the seat — none of them is a woman.
Moreover, it pointed out that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had unveiled that there were 97.02 million registered voters in Pakistan, of which 54.4 million were men while 42.2 million were women with a gap of over 12 million, a situation which the CPDI termed as perturbing.
Moreover, CPDI’s election observation reports reveal that despite the long struggle of women for political empowerment, their participation in the political process remains well below average.
The most recent example of this was the by-election in PP-20 Chakwal-I where CPDI observed low women voter turnout with 14 women voters on average casting their vote in an hour at sampled female polling booth as compared to 20 men at the male booths in the same time.
“ECP’s effort to mobilise women voters and the provisions of section 12 (C) of Elections Act 2017 have not paid off yet. The stakeholders need to take corrective measures to mainstream women in political life,” CPDI said.
Raja Shoaib Akbar, a senior programme manager at CPDI said that even though women in Pakistan have entered politics, thanks to the quota of reserved seats, the female population and a major segment of society remain alienated from active political participation, a limitation of true representation needs which needs to be taken seriously.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2018.
LAHORE: Accessibility audit of NA-154 polling stations showed distressing statistics as it appeared that 73 percent of the sampled polling stations didn’t meet the essential accessibility criteria.
This implies that persons with disabilities, elderly and the sick will not be able to make it to 73 percent of the polling stations on February 12, 2018 by-election in Lodhran-I.
The report was issued by Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections (PAIE) to share findings of Accessibility Audit of polling stations in NA-154. The exercise is conducted before election day to gauge the opportunities available for persons with disabilities to access polling stations on voting day. A trained team of observers visited polling stations that were selected by a scientifically drawn sample.
According to a press release issued here Friday, the team started assessing the approach to the polling station building; statistics reveal that 17 percent polling stations do not have a firm and obstacle-free passage leading to the building. The 25 percent buildings do not provide a level access to the entrance of polling station and out of these, 92 percent buildings do not possess a ramp to facilitate wheelchair users in entering the polling stations. Observers also witnessed that in 23 percent cases protruding objects were reported outside the polling stations, causing obstacle on the way.
Entrance gates of all sampled polling stations are wider than minimum standard of 32 inches, but as witnessed by credible and experienced auditors of PAIE, usually the smaller gates remain open on election day instead of these larger gates. The larger gates are intentionally closed for legitimate reasons i.e. security and to avoid overcrowding in the polling stations. But the smaller gates possess multiple problems; first, the lesser opening width than minimum standard of 32 inches; second, the iron bar at lower edge of the metal gates that is always thicker than maximum door threshold standard of 6mm, third, the lower edge bar of the gates is generally two to three inches higher than ground causing another obstacle. All these points make it difficult for special persons and the elderly to enter polling stations thus making it inaccessible. If staff does not open larger gates for them on election day then 100 percent polling stations naturally become inaccessible for them. The ECP should make the polling stations precisely more accessible and should be mindful of these minute hurdles. The survey further revealed that the interior building and outer entrance of 65 percent polling stations were not on same level and only 10 percent ramps were reported in set sample size, no other facilities existed to facilitate the movement of special persons.
The study signified that even if the special persons and the elderly cross the main gate of the building 65 percent polling station buildings will still pose challenge and they will have to cross stairs to reach the polling area.
Availability of the light being one of the significant conditions of accessibility criteria, it was reported that only 17 percent of the polling stations possess exterior lighting arrangement, leaving 83 percent sampled polling station entrance unlit at the time of low visibility.
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.