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Women in Pakistan well represented politically: Sherry Rehman PDF Print E-mail
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OXFORD, Jan 24 (APP)- Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman highlighted the political progress of women in Pakistan and said their representation in the politics is higher than some of the developed democracies but at the same time said world needs to provide for a much greater proportion of affirmative action for women in public life.

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Addressing prestigious Oxford Union Society on Friday evening on the subject of under representation of women in politics entitled “Where are all the women?” she gave the example of Pakistan and said, in stark contrast in several developing countries where fundamental freedoms are constantly under threat and where electoral politics has not matured to the Western level, her country is a very good example being the first Islamic nation to have a woman prime minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

She recalled that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto as a student at Oxford broke new ground in 1977 when she became the Union’s first Asian woman president. “It was in this bastion of democracy as described by the Mohtarma where she was first introduced to great ideals of political freedom, intellectual courage and personal commitment that later shaped her mind, character and life.”

“Hers was a courageous life that defined and determined a single nation’s history and influenced the thinking of the whole world on women, their politics and what they can do to change the destinies of their countries.”

Ms.Rehman said the subject of “Women in Politics” was very close to the martyred leader’s heart and to which she made the greatest  of contributions through her own political struggle and eventually her own life.

Among the large student audience present at the occasion was Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, currently an undergraduate student at the world famous institution.

Speaking about the women representation in Pakistan, the Minister said her country ranks 45th in the IPU’s list of women in national parliaments and stands ahead of developed democracies such as Canada, the UK and the US which rank 47th,60th and 69th respectively.

“Regionally also, political representation of women in Pakistan is higher than other South Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Iran ranking 107th, 122nd and 131st respectively.”

The Information Minister further said Pakistan is also one of the 30 countries in the world to have its first ever woman Parliamentary Speaker following last year’s general elections which saw more than 15 women directly elected to the Parliament.

Currently, she added, there are 76 women out of 338 members in the country’s Lower House.

She further said presently 12 out of 180 countries are headed by women and seven percent of the world’s total cabinet ministers are women.

According to IPU (International Parliamentary Union), she said only 30 women preside over one of the Houses of the 188 existing Parliaments, 76 of which are bicameral.

The global average of total Mps for both Houses combined stands at 44,158 of which women are 8,119, comprising 18.4 percent. Their regional averages are highest for the Americas at 21.5 percent and lowest for Arab States at 9.1 percent.

She mentioned the political and electoral violence experienced by women candidates particularly in developing countries and said the starkest and most recent example is that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who laid down her life for the cause of democracy on returning home after seven years of political exile when a cowardly act of terrorism claimed her life.

Similarly, the Minister said, Burmese woman political leader Aung San Suu Kyi continues her struggle for democracy and human rights for her country in an environment riddled with violence and political oppression.

“Clearly, governments still need to a lot to find and implement effective means of addressing election violence and other forms of intimidation targeting women politicians.”

Sherry Rehman said there are more women in government today than ever before but their numbers are not enough to change public policy and resource allocation patterns which are instrumental in bringing real benefits to women.

Quoting UK-based Fawcett Society, she said political parties often fail to adequately respond to significant barriers encountered by women standing for parliament.

“These barriers have been summed up as the “four C’s” of confidence, culture, childcare and cash. Women’s access to political parties, unsurprisingly, is often circumscribed  by gender role expectations.

“This is especially true with respect to leadership positions, affecting women’s ability to influence or shape party platforms. They are often ghettoized as women’s vote mobilizers or women’s wing leaders.”

Saying that women need opportunity and mentoring, the Minister said in the 21st century, inclusive politics needs governance reforms that create incentives, skills, information and procedures for public institutions to respond to women’s needs.

She spoke of a world confronted with a host of challenges including spread of violent extremism, economic disparity, food and energy insecurity and environmental stress.

Noting that these global problems cannot be addressed by exclusivist political leaderships representing narrow policy agendas, she said they need to be tackled head on by a network of global political alliances that are founded on pluralism of rights, shared goals and equality of power.

Pointing out that women are born leaders and builders of bridges, the Information Minister said with their unique sensitivities they have the power to bring communities together and transform them into a formidable force to bring about real change.

She said along with worrying challenges, the present troubled times are also witnessing witnessing  exciting new forms of political dynamisms.

“They present to women politicians opportunities that we can leverage for making politics work for not just for women but for every marginalized group and community.”

The Minister concluded from a quote of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who said; “It is my conviction that we can only conquer poverty, squalor, illiteracy and superstition when we invest in our women and when women begin working.”

Oxford Union Society President Charlie Holt chaired the event.

 

     

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