ISLAMABAD: The speakers at a seminar on Thursday lauded the decrease in gender gap among voters which has gone below 10 million for the first time in over a decade and called for more steps for political and electoral empowerment of women.

Speaking at a seminar titled “Pathways to women’s political and electoral empowerment” organised by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) – Free and Fair Election Network (TDEA-Fafen), the speakers also appreciated the increased number of women candidates in the upcoming general elections, says a press release.

The TDEA-Fafen had arranged the event to showcase the efforts of women political workers and leaders to get their civil and political rights and demonstrate leadership skills through a four-year programme, ‘WE’RE Leaders’

Funded by Global Affairs Canada, the four-year project that started in 2019 was implemented in 20 districts of all four provincial capitals through 19 member organizations of Fafen.

The project also worked with the rights-based commissions, the Election Commission of Pakistan, the National Database and Registration Authority, the media and other government institutions.

Celebrating the successful closeout of the programme, Luke Myers, the Counsellor (Development) and Head of Cooperation at Global Affairs Canada, said the gender gap on the electoral rolls had been minimised due to the collaboration between civil society and the institutions.

He appreciated the increased number of women filing nomination papers for the upcoming general elections as compared with the previous two general elections.

He said the project directly engaged with women at the grassroots level, addressed their issues and strengthened the institutions. However, he expressed satisfaction that despite several challenges, the project remained on track and achieved its targets.

Fafen Chairperson Mossarat Qadeem acknowledged the role of member organisations in addressing the issues of women workers. She said it was the consistent effort and perseverance of Fafen members that the gender gap on the electoral rolls had been minimised. She said Fafen worked with women workers, polling agents, and candidates and urged the political parties to revamp their internal structures by including women workers in their leadership tiers.

TDEA’s Chief Executive Officer Muddassir Rizvi said it was the beginning of a journey as real change would come when there was a change in the behaviors and attitudes of people.

Chairperson Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Nuzhat Shirin and Chairperson Sindh Human Rights Commission Iqbal Ahmed Detho also spoke on the occasion.

Earlier, Team Lead Rashid Chaudhry gave a detailed presentation on the project’s objectives, outcomes, achievements, pathways, and lessons learned.

TDEA implemented the Women’s Enjoyment of Rights, Empowerment, and Leadership (WE’RE Leaders) project, which aimed at increasing the political empowerment and enjoyment of rights by women, particularly young and marginalised women and those at risk, in Pakistan. This project was part of the Women’s Political Participation in Pakistan programme (WPP).

WE’RE Leaders made remarkable gains in promoting the political and electoral participation of women. The programme successfully helped decrease the gender gap on the electoral rolls across the project districts. Furthermore, the initiative played a pivotal role in improving media coverage of women’s issues and their progressive portrayal and strengthening the rights-based commissions to deliver on their mandates effectively.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2023

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