Category Archives: Asia

Raise awareness about women’s participation in politics

The speakers at a seminar stressed upon measures to raise awareness on women’s participation in political arena and affirmative actions to ensure women’s exercise of right to vote and contest in the elections. Aurat Foundation organised a seminar on “Challenges and Obstacles in Women Right to vote” here on Friday at a local hotel. PPP MNA Ms Yasmeen Rehman, PPP MPA Sajida Mir, PML-Q representative Ms Mehnaz Rafi, regional coordinator Aurat Foundation Mumtaz Mughal, provincial election commissioner Punjab Qamar-uz-Zaman, DGM Nadra Colonel Muhammad Nawaz and President High Court Bar Association Justice Nasira Javaid Iqbal addressed the seminar. Ms Yasmeen said that PPP was working for women betterment especially in rural and tribal areas. She said that feudalism in Punjab and Jirga system in NWFP were main hurdles for women’s active role in politics. She said that women wanted to vote or participate in political activities but their male family members did not allow them to come out of their respective homes. She said that media should play its due role to change the prevailing thinking of society regarding women standing. Sajida Mir said women are living in male dominant society where permission of male is necessary especially in rural areas to come out even for casting a vote. She observed that the condition of women in urban is somewhat better as during current election campaign, female workers were more active as compared to male workers but unfortunately still women are being deprived of their right to participate in country’s politics. Ms Mehnaz Rafi said that women consist of more than half population in Pakistan but they were not interested in casting their votes due to lack of awareness. She said that it was the duty of government to take measures to encourage them to cast their right of vote.

She stressed that all the political parties should give 33 per cent representation to women in their parties. She said that registration of those parties should be cancelled who discourage females to caste their vote in elections.  Qamar-uz-Zaman said that Pakistan Election Commission had completed computerise record of all voters in Pakistan. He said that it was not their duty to make laws and they are bound to follow only rules. He said that if  people were facing difficulties in registration then it was duty of parliamentarians to change those laws. He said that PEC had provided door-to-door service for registration but unfortunately most of the people were not interested in attaining this service. He also informed that immoveable property or permanent residence was required for the registration.Muhammad Nawaz said that 543 centres of Nadra were working to make easy accessibility of CNIC. Friday was allocated specially for women’s registration whereas they could also applied for new CNIC during the whole week, he added. He said that female staff was also deployed to facilitate women.  He said that any body could get his new CNIC without any cost as all kinds of fees had been waived off.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Lahore/25-Jul-2009/Raise-awareness-about-womens-participation-in-politics/1

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PKR’s plan for women

IN early June 2009, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) announced it would be amending its constitution to include, among others, a 30% quota for women leaders at all levels. PKR’s move likely made it the first party from either the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional to make a concrete commitment towards including more women in politics.

Women’s rights advocates agree that PKR’s new quota for women in leadership positions is a step in the right direction. The party has clearly absorbed many points women’s advocacy groups have been making for years about gender equality.

But how effective will PKR’s gender quota be, and how exactly will it be put into place?

Women of substance

Wanita PKR deputy chief Rodziah Ismail stresses one point repeatedly: the women who fill her party’s new quota must be able to make a substantial contribution, not just fill seats.

“If we pick you as a candidate, it’s not because you are beautiful, or you are nice to others. You must go on this line: you are capable, you are giving the best performance, people are seeing you as a leader. If not, sorry,” she tells The Nut Graph in an interview at her office in Shah Alam.

zuraida But both Rodziah and Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin have expressed concerns about a lack of qualified women to fill top positions. Indeed, if women are traditionally kept out of leadership positions, what will ensure that qualified women actually make it to top posts in a party or organisation?

PKR is addressing the lack of qualified female candidates by implementing training programmes, which would focus on skill and confidence building, Rodziah said. The most promising participants in these programmes could be fast-tracked into leadership positions. Most of the efforts to implement the quota are currently concentrated on developing and implementing such programmes, she said.

A strategy focused on fast-track training programmes is also in line with recommendations from women’s groups, says Dr Cecilia Ng, an academic and women’s rights activist, in a phone interview.

ngNg, who is visiting professor at the Women’s Development Research Centre at Universiti Sains Malaysia, notes that training programmes like these are essential to ensure that women are qualified to do substantial work. “You have to do a lot more groundwork, and identify potential leaders, identify the younger leaders, [and] together go through trainings [and] empowerment programmes,” she said.

What does it mean?

Skills training aside, PKR’s constitutional amendment could be defined in any number of ways. But Rodziah explained that the 30% quota would be incorporated at every level.

For example, in a branch with 15 seats, five should be held by women. If five of those 15 seats are decision-making positions, at least one should be held by a woman, Rodziah says. The same principle would apply at the federal level.

Still, 30% of women in leadership positions does not necessarily translate into 30% of women as elected representatives.

Rodziah said the party would meet in July 2009 to plot a two-year plan for increasing the number of female candidates in the next elections. However, she did not indicate what that plan would consist of, just as she was short on detailing the party’s training programmes or what the party’s deadline was to achieve its 30% quota.

“We have our strategy but I can’t expose it,” she says.

Racial barriers

Rodziah also expressed barriers to women’s participation in Malaysian politics in racial terms, revealing that gender discrimination is just one of many issues female politicians have to deal with.

When asked what the biggest barriers are to Malaysian women’s participation in politics, she divided them along racial lines. “Chinese women are good in giving ideas, projecting themselves. But some Malay women are a bit slow in that.”rodziah

In other words, despite the fact that PKR is multiracial, party members still face racial prejudice from their peers about how they will perform.

Political parties can’t achieve equality among their members by considering gender alone, Ng notes. They also have to tackle discrimination based on age and race.

“The 30% quota has to represent the different ethnic groups, different age groups, and geographical locations,” she argues.

Preventing ghettos

These issues aside, Simranjit Kaur Gill, who lobbies for more women in positions of power with the Women’s Candidacy Initiative, says applying the quota could address the problem of women being ghettoised in certain positions.

“Society considers women as only being relevant to consider women’s issues, like family and healthcare,” she said. “And if you look at the political system in Malaysia, with the exception of (Tan Sri) Rafidah Aziz, the usual cabinet positions given to women relate to social welfare, national unity, sports, youth, women, family and community.”simranjit

This limitation on the acceptable roles that women can play in public office is yet another barrier for Malaysian women in politics, Simranjit adds. “We are ready for the ministries of defence, finance and, yes — even to be prime minister.”

But it remains unclear if PKR’s women’s wing is on the same page as women’s rights advocates.

“[Women] can’t only be championing women’s issues,” Rodziah says, for example. “Women’s issues should be on par with other issues.”

In other words, women should not be emphasising women’s issues more than other issues. But that argument presupposes that women’s issues are already given the same level of importance as others, and that male politicians would address and promote women’s concerns in the absence of female counterparts.

The lack of clarity aside on the issues involved in gender equality, PKR should be commended. While other politicians and political parties have merely announced objectives for increasing female representation, PKR has enshrined a women’s quota in their constitution, setting a benchmark for others to follow.

Equally important, it means other political parties and civil society can hold them accountable if they fail to achieve what they promise they would do.

Source: http://thenutgraph.com/article-4447.html

Women’s Rights in Pakistan: Descending into Darkness

mukhtar_mai Mukhtar Mai, a leading Pakistani women’s rights advocate, gained fame for the way she courageously stood up to traditions that violated her human rights. Online, one can find plenty of information about her – her gang rape, her recent marriage, her strides for women’s rights and education, and the harassment that she has faced from Pakistani government officials. While her past is now known around the globe, her future, in light of the Multan Electric Power Company’s June 11 raid on the Mukhtar Women’s Welfare Organization, remains uncertain. With the exception of coverage by Nicholas Kristof’s blog (“A Hero’s Ordeal in Pakistan“), Ms. Mai’s current dire situation in Pakistan is not well-known. The latest harassment towards Ms. Mai, which within the context of previous incidents was obviously not an isolated event, must mobilize the public to demand action from the Pakistani government.

On June 11, 2009, the Multan Electric Power Company raided the MMWWO in Meerwala, Pakistan, and disconnected all electricity to the grounds, falsely accusing the organization of stealing electricity despite records proving they have paid all bills in full. MMWWO and hundreds of families in the surrounding area were without power for several days. Today, while the power to the surrounding area has been restored, the MMWWO grounds, which house the Mukhtar Mai Girls Model School, Women’s Resource Centre, and Shelter Home for battered women (whose premises was raided despite the fact that men are strictly prohibited), are still enduring blistering temperatures. According to MMWWWO employees who were witnesses, the power company officials claimed that the raid was ordered by Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, the Federal Minister for Defense Production. This raid has significantly hindered the ability of Ms. Mai’s organization to carry out its important human rights work, providing services for vulnerable women, girls and boys.

In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on orders of a traditional village council as punishment for acts allegedly committed by her younger brother. Instead of suffering in silence, Ms. Mai fought back and testified in a rape case against her attackers and is now a leading Pakistani women’s rights activist. The case is now before the Supreme Court after a lower court granted the convicted men’s appeal. Hearings for the supreme Court case have repeatedly been delayed, but her attackers remain imprisoned and her case is pending.

The June 11 incident is only the latest in a series of harassing incidents carried out by government officials to dissuade Ms. Mai from seeking accountability for past crimes and carrying out her work. Throughout the court proceedings, Ms. Mai has faced harassment by government officials, most notably by Minister Jatoi. In 2006, he visited Ms. Mai to ask her to reach a compromise with her attackers. In 2008, he again pressured Ms. Mai to drop the charges against her attackers, allegedly insisting that if she proceeded with the case, he would ensure a verdict in favor of her attackers. Most recently, in February 2009, Minister Jatoi’s associates engaged in a media campaign against Ms. Mai, stating that her attackers are innocent and that the entire case is a “fraud” and a “western agenda.”

Since 2002, Ms. Mai’s record of promoting human rights has put her in danger. To date, no government action has been taken to ensure Ms. Mai’s safety and ability to continue her advocacy. She and her colleagues bravely continue their work, in the darkness and sweltering heat, but the government of Pakistan must step up its commitment to her organization and to the Pakistani women for whom they demand rights. Today, Human Rights First joins other non-governmental organizations in demanding an end to the Pakistani Government’s harassment of Mukhtar Mai. You can find out more and take action here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/human-rights-first/mukhtar-mai-pakistani-wom_b_219553.html