Citizens’ Charter of Demand on Women’s Political and Electoral Participation
Challenges Identified by Young Women in Communities:
This Citizens Charter of Demand has been produced by Aware Girls in consultation with young women activists of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Citizens Committees (Mardan and Swabi). It addresses government, policy makers and political parties.
The following challenges were identified by the young women regarding women’s participation in politics
- Women are not aware, do not recognize their right to vote as a basic right and are not encouraged to take part in politics.
- Women do not have enough skills, training and education to take part in politics.
- Women are not registered citizens of the country, they do not have National Identity Cards because of the cultural reservations and practices. Further, women votes are not registered in the election processes due to the lack of National Identity Cards.
- Women are not aware of the basic voting procedures and protocols, thus their decisions are influenced by different political parties members.
- Women are not the decision makers therefore are dictated by their male family members to cast vote for a specific party or individual.
- Women’s mobility is controlled by men and are not allowed to go outside their homes without a male family member which results in women not casting vote as women’s vote are not considered important.
- Polling stations are inaccessible to women because of gender mix stations, lack of transportation and restricted mobility.
- There is a lack of trust on the political leaders and representatives of their community, as they have rarely fulfilled their promises and never planned developmental projects for women.
- Majority of the political representatives are men, and therefore women find it difficult to raise their concerns and discuss their challenges with the respective representatives.
- Religious groups and political parties in certain areas sign agreements to prevent women from casting vote and women find it difficult to even speak up against these religious groups or political parties for violating their rights.
- Long term participation of women in politics is challenging as it is difficult for them to sustain themselves against opposition, threats and discouragement from community and people within the political parties. They are being trained for public assemblies, protests and promotions of the political campaigns but when it comes to formation of party manifesto, policies or distribution of finances on different activities, women are not supposed to be the part in these matters.
- Women face double burden, both physically and mentally, if take part in activities outside their home as they have to take care of their families irrespective of their job and work.
- Literacy rate is very low among women due to unavailability and inaccessibility of schools which affects their level of awareness about political rights and other human rights.
- Harassment at work places refrain women from participation at any level in political set ups.
- Women’s rights are violated in the name of religion, culture and other social practices which makes them feel they are incapable and should not be engaged in processes where they have to work with men as their colleagues.
- Women’s health issues always remain unsolved because of unavailability and inaccessibility of basic health services, absence of medical staff and other reasons which makes it difficult for women to engage in the community work and to take part in politics which requires energy and good health.
Demands from Government:
The following demands were formulated:
- Government should introduce a system to make the National Identity Cards a compulsion for every women. Government committees should be formulated at the district and councils levels to ensure that every women in the community has an Identity Card.
- Governments should make sure that every women’s vote is registered. Election Commission should introduce a system to ensure it.
- The number of polling stations should be increased in the communities in coming elections to make them accessible for women.
- Women Centers should be formed at the community level to discuss their issues in a friendly space.
- Women literacy rate should be increased through giving free quality education.
- Training centers at the community level should be established to train women about the skills required to take part in politics and elections and other legal documents required.
- Female politicians should do frequent visits to their communities.
- Women should be engaged while formulating the agenda and manifesto of the party through discussions and organizing frequent meetings.
- Sports facilities should be provided to women for the confidence building.
- Quality health centers should be made accessible, affordable and available.
- Women security personnel should be hired and recruited in the female polling stations.
Demands from the Policy Makers and Political Parties
- Laws that violates women’s rights should be revised regularly.
- Committees for the implementation of the sexual harassment at work place should be proactive and established at all levels within the political parties, to make environment safe and conducive for women.
- Grievance system and mechanism should be made with in the political parties and communities to address the issues.
- Women demand from the political parties and policy makers to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- The number of reserved seats should be increased to 50% in the parliament, Provincial Assemblies and in the local governemnt.
- The systematic marginalization of women in parties should be discouraged by facilitating women’s equal participation in politics.
- The candidates’ recruitment system with in the political parties should be fair and on the basis of merit and not on the basis of family links. Each party should give equal representation to women.
- Specific budget should be allocated for development projects for women.
- Gender equality should be institutionalized within the party structures, processes and practices. A gender audit on yearly basis should be done to do the self assessment
- A gender action plan should be developed to prevent discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex and gender, party codes of conduct should be introduced and informed along with developing strategies for capacity building of women party members.
- Parties should introduce provisions to ensure women representation of women at the decision making levels.
- A mentorship program should be organized by the parties for the capacity building of new members especially women members.
- Gender desegregated data of the party members should be maintained and awareness raising programs in the areas where there is low membership of women should be organized.
- It is important that the political party mechanism and documents are written and implemented in a gender sensitive manner.
- Awareness raising campaigns regarding gender equality should be organized for all party members.
- Seminars and workshops should be organized for all the party members to understand gender equality and women’s rights.
- Parties in opposition and in power should advocate for introducing gender policies and the parties in the government should facilitate and lead these processes.
- Women should be members and part of all the committees, task forces and working groups.
- There should be gender mainstreaming of the party code of conducts.
- Political parties should support pro-women legislation in the parliament, and voices of women should be heard and supported within the parliament.
- The existing women wings of the parties should be strengthened.
- Superficial practices to increase the number of women in parties should be avoided like nominating women candidates in areas where it is difficult for them to win.
- Political parties should never sign any agreement which hinder women from voting pol. No political party should take any action which violates the very basic right of women to vote.
- All political parties should own the issues of women in the communities, and should chalk out clear plans for eradicating women’s human rights issues.
The Citizens’ Charter of Demand is part of Aware Girls’ project on Strengthening Women’s Political Participation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, supported by Common Wealth Foundation.