Political awakening of Pakistani women
The reality is that women in Pakistan are striving to leave a strong impression by participating in social and political activities across the country. More encouragingly, women in rural areas are also breaching social barriers and raising their voice against excesses committed against them. While not many of these women are highly educated or in an influential position, winds of change have certainly started to blow. Backed by state and non-state actors, and enjoying greater exposure to media, these women have gained greater awareness about their rights and position in society. Active participation in the political domain is one of the most direct ways to demand a greater role in society. At a recent annual conference of rural women to commemorate International Rural Women Day, these women demanded 33 percent representation at all levels in the political setup. The fresh demand is important in the context of upcoming local government elections. In the recent general elections, it was feared that women in several districts would be left out of the electoral process. However, the participation of women in these elections surprised many as an estimated 40 percent of all votes were cast by them.
Now the onus lies on female parliamentary members to take a stand on issues related to women’s rights, education, inheritance laws and social participation.
Nevertheless, the male-dominated Pakistani society continues to pose stiff challenges to women development. In some of the most conservative areas of Pakistan, women are not allowed to participate in the society as they seemingly “lack the mental capacity” to make correct choices. This absurd logic points toward lack of education and social awareness. There is an urgent need for behavioral change in the society to overcome the obstacles to women development in the country. The civil society needs to prominently highlight the role of women in the country’s development. By improving access to information and capital, uplift of women should be prioritized to improve their conditions.
If Pakistan’s society is to undergo mass transformation and discard discriminatory practices, it is essential that women voters understand the power of their vote. To address some of the most burning issues of our times, we must ensure that the trend of women participation in electoral process does not decline. All major political parties have the responsibility to show commitment toward inclusive development in the country. By giving women a louder voice in the corridors of power, Pakistan can make rapid strides toward women empowerment and gender equality.
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