Political empowerment of women cannot be made possible without changing the patriarchal mindset within political parties, participants at a consultation on “Gender Action Manifesto” highlighted. The consultation was held in Karachi on April 20, 2017as part of a series of such activities being organsied by the Heinrich Boell Stiftung (hbs) at provincial and national level under its “Gender Action Manifesto” project.
Keeping in view election year ahead, hbs has planned to publish a “Gender Action Manifesto”, a policy brief that will present spotlights on gender-related issues and suggest recommendations for political parties in preparation of their manifestos. The policy document will also review manifestos of political parties through the gender lens and incorporate input and recommendations made by the participants of provincial and national consultations.
During the consultation Rabeea Hadi, a gender specialist, gave a detailed presentation on the desktop review of manifestos of mainstream political parties from 2008-2013. She highlighted the commitments made by political parties in their 2008 manifestos and women-related legislation done by them at provincial and national level during that period.
Representatives from the political parties, both ruling and opposition, civil society activists, gender experts, members of the police department, representatives of National Commission on Human Rights, and academicians participated in the consultation.
During the consultation the participants were engaged in a group-work activity to discuss spotlights on Gender Action Manifesto Election Challenges: i) legislation and policy making, ii) political empowerment (capacity-building, quota, political culture in parties and assemblies), and iii) women in decision-making (judiciary, bureaucracy, law enforcement) followed by a plenary presentation session on group work findings and discussions.
In the second half of the programme, the Urdu version of the toolkit titled Unseating Political Patriarchy – A toolkit for Debate and Action was launched. The toolkit discusses key issues to revisit for debate and action, spotlights and to-dos which can help in improving effective women’s political participation like, reforms in intra-party structure, electoral modalities, and establish intra-party equality in addition to rethink political culture and ensure accountabilities and compliances. The English version of the toolkit has already been launched in Peshawar and Islamabad in December 2016.
During the launching session, Anis Haroon, a seasoned women rights activist, said that there is a long history of struggle by civil society for political empowerment of women but unfortunately it has not been materialized fully.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Shehla Qureshi said that there are a lot of hurdles and challenges for women who are in bureaucracy or in law enforcement agencies like police department, but women like her have set an example by breaking this barrier.
MPA Naheed Begum said: “Though, my party [MQM] believed in mainstreaming of women and empowerment, still those who are on reserved seats in provincial or national Assembly do not have much say in party affairs.”
The participants while appreciating the efforts of hbs said that it was a timely initiative and such focused consultations will yield concrete recommendations on issues related to gender which will help the political parties in drafting their manifestos for the upcoming general elections.