Participants of a national consultation have demanded representation of female political workers in all party ranks to ensure women’s true participation in the political process.
The consultation was organised by the Aurat Foundation (AF) with an objective of advocating for the inclusion of women’s rights and women’s perspective in the manifestoes of political parties. The consultation was organised after a series of small group meetings with different stakeholders from four provinces.
The consultation started with session titled ‘Women’s Empowerment in Manifestoes — Consultations and Findings’ in which a detailed presentation was made by Sofia Naurin from the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on the draft suggestions came out after a series of consultations with women’s rights organisations and activists.
Sofia said that women have an important role in peace building and peacekeeping, whether on local, national or international level. She shared demand that women in agriculture shall be recognised as farmers and should be given social protection and woman farmers shall be allocated 1-5 acres of land in their names.
The draft suggestion also included the demand for a policy on natural resource management with full consideration of women’s rights. Women must be given their share in land inheritance.
The suggestion on law and order situation included the repeal of discriminatory laws — blasphemy law, ‘Qisas’ and ‘Diyat’, law of evidence, and ‘Hadood’ ordinances. Formulation of personal family laws on minorities and amendment in minimum wage ordinance 1961 were also desired.
The draft also demanded representation of women on senior level in all print and electronic media. Female workers shall be paid wages as per their value of work. In order to ensure this, labour laws are required for informal economy, agriculture and domestic work. Minimum wage policy shall be formulated and implemented at all levels.
For women’s political empowerment, it was suggested that women shall be given at least 10% quota on winnable general seats for provincial and national elections and female candidates shall also be given funds for contesting elections. It was also demanded that election data shall be maintained on gender-disaggregated basis. For ending violence against women, it was demanded that all pro-women laws shall be implemented, and holding of ‘jirgas’ shall be banned where women are given away for dispute settlement.
The second presentation, given by Advocate Sadia Mumtaz, comprised the set of suggestions prepared by Aurat Foundation after a series of consultations with civil society organizations and networks. The draft demanded that women’s reserved seats in national and provincial assemblies and the Senate should be protected and enhanced from 17% to 33%, and these seats shall be filled through constituency-based direct elections.
The Political Parties Order 2000 must be amended to ensure democracy within parties, mandating the elections for all positions while ensuring 33% representation of women. The Election Commission of Pakistan shall declare elections null and void in such constituencies where women are restrained from their right to vote. The commission shall also provide gender-disaggregated data on voter’s turn out. The commission shall also increase number female employees, at all level, in its own ranks.
For ensuring women’s literacy and their effective participation in all development processes, national and provincial budgets should make increased allocation for education, which should not be less than 5% of GNP. All political parties should adopt girls’ education as a core priority in their manifestoes with time-bound commitments. Attack on girls’ education, burning of girls’ schools and threats to girls’ students and female teachers should be effectively countered.
The draft also focused women’s right to health. It demanded from the national and provincial governments to focus on provision of primary health and reproductive health care for all citizens with special focus on women. The parties should also ensure gender responsive budgets. Family planning services shall also be available at all health facility outlets. Elderly women shall be issued health cards for all basic health facilities coverage.
During the second session titled ‘Women’s Empowerment in Manifestoes — Legislators’ Perspective,’ Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza suggested that although land reforms are currently not possible but the PPP’s government has distributed land to land-less farmers and women in Sindh. She gave commitment that PPP’s manifesto would be further made responsive inclusive to women’s empowerment.
Marvi Rashidi, MPA of the PML-F, said that she along with other party members would suggest socio-political and economic reforms reference to women’s rights for her party’s manifesto. She said that they would also ensure inclusion and implementation of right to food in the manifesto.
Zareen Majeed, MPA of the MQM, said that although MQM’s manifesto includes its commitment to ending violence against women, they are also trying their best that these commitments shall also be implemented. She also mentioned their commitment to end the dual education system and said that her party would ensure education only in one language i.e. Urdu.
A participant, belonging to PML-N, suggested that political workers shall be given representation in party ranks.
Shazia Tehmas, MPA of the PPP, while discussing her party’s manifesto, said that this time her party has made working groups of their workers who will sit with the communities and ask the suggestion for improving education, health, economy and other important sectors. She suggested that government shall ensure that there should also be a code of conduct for electronic media.
Amna Ulfat, MPA of the PML-Q, criticised the Punjab government’s policy of holding funds as ‘block-funds’ as most of these funds remained unspent last year.
Arifa Khalid, MPA of the PML-N, discussed important points of her party’s 34-point manifesto. She said that the PML-N has commitment to increase women’s share in government jobs up-to 50%. She also said that the Punjab government has allocated land to women in Punjab.
Balochistan Minister for Women’s Development Ghazala Gola said that PPP and its provincial government has in principle decided that if it comes to power again it will pass legislation on domestic violence and sexual harassment at workplace.