ISLAMABAD: The Collective for Social Science and Research (CSSR) and the Institute for Development and Economic Alternatives (Ideas) on Wednesday held a discussion on ways to increase the participation and representation of women in politics.

Politicians, government officials and members of the civil society participated in the event which was divided in three sections including presentations, group discussions and panel discussions.

In his presentation, Ali Cheema from Ideas said the gender gap in political participation remains a tenacious global challenge which is particularly acute in Pakistan. He said the country was ranked 143rd out of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index.

Speaking at a panel discussion, MNA Nafisa Shah said women politicians should be given tickets for general seats in order to make their presence in parliament effective. She criticised the present government for not treating women parliamentarians on reserved seats the same as other members.

“The present government parliamentary caucus could not maintain the high standard we set and has lost its effectiveness. This government uses women parliamentarians on reserved seats for filling seats in order to meet the quorum. The ruling party does not even understand what these women parliamentarians represent,” she said.

Senior vice president of the Awami National Party Bushra Gohar also criticised the role of the women parliamentary caucus which she said has a “limited role in this government and has also become very weak”.

She stressed on the need for working harder within political parties in order to ensure an effective role for women parliamentarians.

During the second session of the event, the audience was divided in four groups for a discussion on the inclusion of women as political actors and the role of civil society, the government and political parties.

Speakers agreed that women voter turnout is low due to the challenges they face when casting their vote freely.

Participants brought up some of the obstacles women face in polling stations including transportation issues, waiting in long queues, lack of political awareness, limited number of polling stations, document problems and others.

A number of solutions were also suggested such as separate sections for women in polling stations, raising political awareness, ensuring a conducive environment at polling stations, better transportation facilities and door-to-door campaigns involving women voters.

Some of the participants stressed that political parties should tailor their manifestoes with special programs for women and nominate women candidates which will encourage women to come out of their homes and exercise their right to vote.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2017

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