September 12, 2021

Female parliamentarians face numerous challenges in terms of recognition, inclusion, and effectiveness.


Women’s participation in Pakistani politics got a boost in 1965 when Fatima Jinnah contested presidential election against Ayub Khan. Over the course of history other prominent figures emerged on the landscape including Benazir Bhutto— the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority country. More recently there have been Yasmin Rashid, Maryam Nawaz, Maryam Aurangzeb, Shireen Mazari, Sherry Rehman, Tehmina Daultana, Hina Butt, Shazia Marri, Nafisa Shah, and Firdous Ashiq Awan.

Women face numerous challenges in terms of recognition, inclusion and effectiveness. Most prominent female politicians in Pakistan – including Fatima Jinnah and Benzair Bhutto came from the family of a male political leader. A lack of such backing makes it difficult for women to enter the realm of politics.

Those women who do gain entry through male familial support then have to face the challenge of proving their competence and legitimacy to their male counterparts so that their existence in parliamentary circles is taken seriously. In most cases, even when women are in positions of high power their clothes, sense of style, and accessories are given more value than their intellect or political performance.

Women politicians says it is extremely rare for a political party to hand out tickets for winnable constituencies to female candidates. This is partly due to ingrained gender biases in the society.

Affirmative action has helped women overcome these societal and cultural barriers and take up their place in Pakistani politics.

Women legislators nominated against reserved seats require more training and research assistance to ensure that they can contribute fully.

Currently, despite the many social and political obstacles, women are outperforming their male colleagues in terms of attendance in assemblies and the number of parliamentary resolutions drafted. While affirmative action is a great temporary solution, training and grassroots inclusion starting at political parties is of extreme importance in the long-term.