Women political leaders of different political parties face many challenges and discrimination at all levels

Lahore: Participants at the Fourth WILL Leadership Forum agreed that women political leaders from different political parties face many challenges and discrimination at all levels. They recognized the need of trainings focused on media messaging, legislation and advocacy. They also stressed upon platforms such as parliamentary caucuses and coalitions that bring together politicians working at all tiers to further their agendas.

The Forum was jointly organized by Search for Common Ground Pakistan and Insaan Foundation Trust as part of their nationwide ‘Women’s Initiative for Learning and Leadership (WILL)’ campaign to celebrate struggles and achievements of women political leaders and to share their pre- and post-elections vision, experiences, insights, needs, challenges, successes, and strengthen each other as leaders.

Major national and regional political parties namely the PML-N, PTI, PPP, PML-Q, PPP Shaheed Bhutto, PML-F and MQM were represented by 22 sitting MPAs, aspiring women politicians, ex-councillors and ex-MPAs who attended the Forum. These included Raheela Khadim Hussain – MPA PMLN, Shamela Aslam – MPA PMLN, Nighat Nasir Sheikh – MPA PMLN, Naheed Begum –MPA MQM, Sabrina Javed – PTI, Sumaira Khan – PPP, Nasim Nasir Khwaja – Ex-MPA PMLN, Amna Zaidi – PPP, Bushra Sarfaraz – PPP, Zarrin Majid – Ex-MPA MQM, Tayyaba Khatoon – PMLF, Zeb-un-Nissa – PMLF, Ghulam Sarwar – PP Shaheed Bhutto, Bushra Rani – MQM, Anis Umer – PPP, Nargis N.D. Khan – Ex-MPA PPP, Kehkashan Abbass – PML-Q, Nasreen Abdul Basit –PMLN and Zareen Ishaq – MQM.

Participants questioned the criteria of reserved seat nominations. They shared their experiences of elections 2013 where despite working on the ground for years they were not awarded tickets by their parties. Participants expressed disappointment by their leaderships’ decision-making and stressed that political parties win with the help of women political workers and yet, unfortunately, they get ignored by their parties. Ex-MPAs articulated that they must not be ignored by their parties and should be adjusted in the new political setup so that they can continue delivering with the same zest and zeal.

“The proportion of women parliamentarians in governance and decision-making is very low compared to their male counterparts,” noted Executive Director SFCG Pakistan, Ammara Durrani, adding that the 25-member new federal cabinet has only two women as ministers of state; the newly constituted National Assembly has 66 women legislators (6 directly elected and 60 on reserved seats); and the new provincial assemblies have 10 directly elected women legislators and 137 on reserved seats in all four provinces. “Thus, only 213 women parliamentarians at national and provincial levels are now representing half the country’s population,” said Ms. Durrani. “Effective and good governance will remain a dream unless the status quo is changed to truly empower women at decision-making and policy-making levels.”

The Fourth Women’s Leadership Forum was held as part of SFCG Pakistan’s national “Strengthening Women Parliamentarians for Effective Government” project that is working with current and aspiring women political leaders at provincial and district levels, as well as providing guidelines to media for engaging with audiences on specific issues identified by women parliamentarians.

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