QUETTA: The representatives of civil society, female activists and political leaders have called for increased participation of women in the political process and said it was the need of the hour to stop their exploitation in a male-dominated society.

They expressed these views at a seminar organised by the Aurat Foundation in collaboration with the South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Balochistan Commission on the Status of Women on Sunday.

The session was presided over by Fauzia Shaheen, the chairperson of the Balochistan Commission on Status of Women. The event was attended by National Commission for Human Rights Member Farkhanda Aurangzeb, Director Women Rights Shazia Riaz, Deputy Director Election Commission of Pakistan Syed Ehsan Shah, Balochistan CM’s Coordinator and BAP leader Shaina Khan, Aurat Foundation’s Alauddin Khilji and leaders of political parties, including Fatima Mengal, Abida Baloch and Shumaila Ismail.

They spoke at length about the issues faced by women and said their exploitation will continue until society’s behaviour and attitude were changed.

This change would only be possible if women are given equal rights, opportunities and representation in the political process at all levels and their meaningful participation is ensured in decision-making, the speakers said.

“Pakistani women have proved their ability whenever they are given a chance,” Ms Shaheen said, adding that women have performed in all national institutions, including assemblies, the Senate and cabinets.

She said without the participation of women, Pakistan will not progress.

Ms Khan, the coordinator of Balochistan said that disparity in the distribution of social and economic resources was a significant hurdle in the effective participation of women in the political process. “Instead of resolving their problems, women are being ignored at all decision-making forums.”

The speakers agreed that discrimination and unequal opportunities have made it difficult for women to participate in the political process. They also demanded equal opportunities for women on general seats instead of representation through quotas.

Women should be included in decision-making processes on open merit, just like men, they said. Their involvement in the political process will make it easier to solve the problems faced by women.

The speakers called for amending Section 206 of the Election Act, 2017 to increase the limit of tickets for women on general seats in national and provincial elections from 5pc to 15pc.

In the recent local bodies elections, as many as 212 women directly contested the elections and 26 won general seats, the speakers said. For the first time in Balochistan, a woman was elected chairman of a union council in the Nasirabad division.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2023

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