PESHAWAR: A women rights organisation, Blue Veins, on Thursday launched a publication ‘Gender Checklist – Free and Fair Elections’ with the aim to promote realisation of equal representation of women and men in the decision-making process at all levels.

In this regard, a launching ceremony was held at the Peshawar Presss Club. Representatives of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN), Tribal NGOs Consortium (TNC), Takra Qabayli Khwendy (TQK) and End Violence against Women and Girl Alliance (KP & Fata) were also present on the occasion.

Blue Vein’s programme coordinator Qamar Naseem said that the publication was aimed at strengthening the role and participation of civil society in Pakistan in the quest for greater democratisation through electoral processes, especially in the upcoming local government elections.

He said that the booklet could be useful for electoral authorities, political parties, election observers, election monitors, gender activists, researchers, etc in assessing whether an election was free and fair, taking gender equality into account.

Ms Shahida Shah, TQK coordinator, said that gender and elections were necessary ingredients of a free and fair election. She said that the right to vote and the right to stand for public office should be ensured. She said that women had a difficult time gaining access to positions of political power in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.

This publication, she said, could be helpful to strengthen democracy through mainstreaming gender equality in all electoral processes in local government elections. It will also help in understanding how participation of both women and men could be improved in the electoral process.

Taimur Kamal, PCSN coordinator, said that that the civil society could use this booklet as it contained a series of steps for eliminating or avoiding gender inequality in elections.

Zar Ali Khan, TNC coordinator, said that the publication was simple to understand and interesting as it provided basis for adaptation and use at the national level.

The checklist is based on various key restraints on gender equality affecting women’s political participation in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2014

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