National Consultation on Enhancing Women’s Participation in Politics – Making Quotas More Democratic
Islamabad, 13 May 2014: “We can only have an optimistic future scenario if women are given meaningful participation in legislative process. The collective wisdom of women parliamentarians would go a long way in addressing the women related issues”, stated Ms. Shaista Malik, Secretary of the Women Parliamentary Caucus at a seminar, “Women’s Participation in Politics – Making Quota Seats more Democratic”, held today by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and supported by UN Women and UNDP. She asked all political parties and politicians to join hands beyond political parties for the cause of empowering women.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Mr. Ayaz Sadiq also addressed the seminar where he assured the participants of his commitment to bringing forth legislation to ensure women’s effective and meaningful political participation. “I often find my women colleagues going the extra mile and putting in the extra effort to prove their worth. We have seen the sustainable growth of strong women candidates. If parties promote these candidates they can find candidates who will win seats.”
Guest of honour, European Union Ambassador Lars Gunner Wigemark, stated "One way to have a greater number of women elected directly to parliament would be to mobilize the large number of women in Pakistan who remain outside the political process. Although more women voted in the 2013 elections than ever before, there are still 11 million women who are not even registered to vote. It is in the interest of all political parties to enfranchise these potential women voters."
In her opening remarks, Ms. Joanna Merlin Scholtes from UN Women stated that “meeting with women politicians and leaders has reinforced my conviction that bringing women to the forefront will ensure there will be more and more: women friendly legislations and policies”.
Mr. Marc-André Franche, UNDP Pakistan Country Director, observed, “Looking at the gender landscape in Pakistan today, in terms of political participation, urgent measures are needed to create a level playing field for women in the electoral process. As I am sure you will all agree, this lingering democratic deficit undermines the quality of Pakistan’s democracy. And that is why today’s discussion on the merits and demerits of gender quotas as a mechanism for enhancing women’s political representation is timely and important.”
The seminar was attended by a large number of parliamentarians from all parties, Chairpersons of Parliamentary Affairs Committees Mr. Abdul Mannan and Dr. Jahangir Badar, Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Ministry of Law Justice and Human Rights, Government officials civil society organizations and international partners.
Both the Chairpersons of the Parliamentary Affairs Committees assured the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus of their full support for legislation on women’s empowerment. Ms. Khawar Mumtaz said that “women empowerment is a long journey and in Pakistan it has come a long way. When women have become parliamentarians they have played a substantial role in moving forward progressive legislation but there is still need to make this participation sustainable and more meaningful”.
Ms. Aamina Qadir Adham, UN Women Senior Gender Advisor, said that even though an unprecedented 448 women filed papers to contest elections on general seats, only 9 women were elected. “Quotas are pivotal for women’s participation and according to the 2013 election statistics, candidacies of 53 percent of women for reserved seats in the National Assembly and 46 percent women candidates for reserved seats in Provincial Assemblies were rejected. The key reason for more than 90 percent of the rejections was that the names of these women were not on the final party lists.”
The participants provided recommendations to ensure a more democratic process for women’s quota seats which included: creating a system of both quota and direct elections for women, enabling women to compete directly for party positions, strengthening women’s wings in political parties to support women candidates, setting up electoral schools at local, provincial and federal level.
For further information, please contact Fatimah Inayet, Communications Analyst, UNDP Pakistan.