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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.