KARACHI: A consultation session on the ‘Role of Women in the Local Government, Sindh’ was organised by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) in collaboration with the Sindh Commission of the Status of Women, Bardasht and Huqooq-e-Pakistan at a local hotel here on Monday.

Sindh NCSW member Dr Habiba Hasan, in her welcome address, said that just like there were 33 per cent seats reserved for women in the national and provincial assemblies, there should also be as many seats reserved for them in the local bodies.

“The women working for the betterment of others at the grassroots level know the situations in their areas better than anyone else so their participation is vital in the local government,” she said.

In her keynote address, Sindh Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mahnaz Rahman said that they had been demanding 33pc women participation at all government levels, since long.

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“Now on the request of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, the Supreme Court has asked the Sindh government to rework the local government laws in a way that they exercise more authority, though it still remains to be seen how the Sindh government will do this,” she said.

“The provincial governments have been eyeing the local bodies as a threat. Funds are not being distributed by it to the grassroots. But over the last few years, many women have found their way to the union councils as they showed their willingness and determination to contest in the local body elections,” she said.

“The political stage in Pakistan has seen very few women. This is not so because they are incompetent. It is because others put hurdles in their paths. They receive death threats so that they don’t step out of their homes. Had she been allowed to, Fatima Jinnah would have been the first woman prime minister of Pakistan, but she was stopped by wrong means. Still, this a country, which had a woman prime minister twice. Yet we are still lagging behind in politics here,” she said.

On the occasion, several recommendations were read out for the input and approval of the participants of the consultation such as changing the word ‘chairman’ to ‘chairperson’, end the jirga system, making the local bodies politically and economically powerful, no holding of local body meetings without the participation of women councillors, re-election of a seat vacated by a female or a transgender person to be held from the same community and overall 33pc participation of women in all government forms.

It was explained that these recommendations will be taken to and discussed on the floor of the Sindh Assembly.

NCSW chairperson Nilofar Bakhtiar said that the women of Sindh needed to gather the courage to get up and fight for themselves.

“The situation, especially at the grassroots level, is not good. But we are here to spread awareness about it. Why should the women here always be the ones to sacrifice? They need to get up and demand their rights, and not just for themselves, but also for other women looking at them with hope. The government also needs to insure 33pc female participation at all its levels,” she said.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2022

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