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Thursday December 02, 2021

Gender bias, uplift funds: Women contesting direct polls face restrictions

October 01, 2021
Gender bias, uplift funds: Women contesting direct polls face restrictions

ISLAMABAD: Limited political exposure, gender bias in male-dominated political parties and discrimination in provision of development funds were among the major reasons restricting women from building their geographical constituencies to contest direct elections.

It was noted here at a workshop, wherein the leadership of Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (PAKP) and Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) called for political and electoral reforms to ensure equitable women representation. Speaking at the Experience Sharing Workshop for Women Legislators of both assemblies, the Speaker GBLA Syed Amjad Ali Zaidi and the Deputy Speaker PAKP Mahmood Jan pledged to make the environment of the assemblies conducive for women legislators.

Organized by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability and Free and Fair Election Network (TDEA-FAFEN), the workshop was part of Women Leadership Development program to support reserved-seat women legislators to contest upcoming elections on general seats. The GBLA Speaker, Syed Amjad Ali Zaidi, recounted the difficulties women politicians face during the election campaigns.

He asked them to garner influence among their political parties, civil society, local communities and media to improve their chances of contesting on general seats. The GBLA Deputy Speaker, Nazeer Ahmad Advocate, assured his support to establish a Women Parliamentary Caucus in the GBLA. Praising their efforts, he emphasized the need for sustained interaction among sister legislatures for strengthening parliamentary norms in the GB region.

The KP assembly Deputy Speaker, Mahmood Jan, acknowledged the struggle that the women legislators on reserved-seats face in performing their legislative duties. Reaffirming his support, he said there was a need for structural reforms to enhance women representation on general seats.

Discussing the struggle women face in electioneering, the women legislators said that limited political exposure, gender bias in male-dominated political parties and discrimination in provision of development funds were among the major reasons that restrict women from building their geographical constituencies to contest direct elections. They urged the political and parliamentary leadership to play a role in creating an enabling environment where women can realize the constitutional guarantees of non-discrimination on the basis of gender in all walks of life.

The Chief Executive Officer of TDEA, Shahid Fiaz, emphasized for adopting a holistic approach for mainstreaming women politics to address structural, behavorial, institutional and personal issues that hinder women’s journey to political power. Acknowledging the role of reserved-seat women in bringing pro-women legislation, he reminded the participants that the drafters of the Constitution intended the reservation of seats as a measure to bring women into the political mainstream.As many as 15 KP MPAs participated in the workshop. Moreover, six women legislators i represented GBLA.