KHYBER: Most of the elected women councillors in Khyber tribal district feel dejected at the denial of development funds as well as tasks under the local government system and think that their dream to serve their community will remain unfulfilled.

While regretting apathy of authorities, they complained that their male counterparts, too, didn’t call them to their own meetings or formal interactions with the relevant government officials.

Most vocal among the elected womencouncillors is Sumiya Afridi, a postgraduate student of Political Science at the University of Peshawar.

She told Dawn that a year had passed to local body elections in most parts of tribal districts but it was still not clear when councillors would get their “legitimate” powers.

“Our male tehsil chairmen have yet to be provided with offices, so what to talk about powers and funds to women councillors,” she said.

Complain about denial of funds, roles to serve community

The woman councillor wondered why local body elections were held if the provincial government was not sincere about delegating real powers to elected councillors.

She said she had thought that the new local government system would empower women councillors, but it was a false consideration.

“It’s a mockery of democracy. The government is using the lame excuse of funds’ shortage for the empowerment of councillors when they haven’t asked for the moon,” said Ms Afridi of Landi Kotal in a depressed tone.

Zakira Bibi, another woman councillor from the area, insisted that she was at loss to satisfy her women voters, who repeatedly asked me about funds.

She said neither women councillors were taken on board by their male colleagues on the matters of the local body nor were they called to meetings to discuss issues.

“Tribal women face a host of problems from access to better health facilities, education, monetary assistance for orphaned girls and widowed women alongside provision of clean drinking water at homes as in most cases, they are supposed to fetch water for their own families,” she said.

The woman councillor said while contesting elections, she had a plan to address those vital issues.

Elected councillor from Jamrud Karishma Kanwal Afridi, who is a postgraduate student, told Dawn that she was very ambitious about the girls’ education as not only the literacy rate was very low among women but schools, too, lacked basic facilities.

“We are councillors only in name as we have no powers. The provincial government is making false promises to us and thus, lowering our status in the people’s eyes,” she said.

The councillor said that she and other local body members had yet to address basic issues of the local community.

She said empowering women councillors would help resolve most issues of tribal women as the latter couldn’t share their grievances with male councillors.

Ms Zakira Bibi said for the first time, more than 100 women candidates contested local body elections in Khyber tribal district, while in most cases, those women ‘fiercely’ confronted local customs and traditions, which didn’t allow women to step out.

“What to say of becoming members of an elected body. It is time that the provincial government honour and respect the verdict of tribal women voters and fulfil its commitment by empowering the LG system in tribal districts,” she said.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2023

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