Roundtable calls for women’s active participation in democratic process

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ISLAMABAD: A roundtable Wednesday stressed women’s active participation in the democratic system of Pakistan.

The roundtable was organised by the Special Talent Exchange Programme (STEP) in collaboration with the High Commission of Canada, Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and National Forum of Women with Disabilities.

Representatives from the Election Commission of Pakistan, national and international development organisations, Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services, Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections and other disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) attended the discussion.

The discussion primarily focused on enhancing political participation of women with Disabilities.

Speaking on the occasion, Canadian High Commissioner Perry Calderwood said, “Canada believes that the full participation of women in democratic processes is critical for a legitimate and inclusive government. We welcome the efforts of this forum to seek greater access for women with disabilities.”

Speakers also emphasised on taking specific collaborative actions to make an ‘Inclusive Pakistan Elections Regime’.

The participants called for developing and implementing a comprehensive gender strategy by the ECP aiming at enhanced participation of persons with disabilities, especially women in 2018 general elections.

They stressed the need to build the capacity of DPOs and empower their members through trainings on the electoral system, government structure and basic organisational and advocacy skills, helping them build the political profile of DPOs and enabling the organisations to get their issues onto the political agenda.

They emphasised on supporting government institutions such as legislatures and the Election Commission of Pakistan to create legal and regulatory frameworks that provide an opportunity for increasing political participation of persons with disabilities and encourage partnerships with DPOs.

They also called for including DPOs in broad-based civil society coalitions like the Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections (PAIE) to conduct domestic election observation, voter education campaigns and assistance for developing an inclusive elections regime.

It was also stressed to assist political parties to conduct meaningful outreach to persons with disabilities when creating election campaign strategies and developing policy positions, and encourage parties to include persons with disabilities as candidates and in leadership roles.

Moreover, it was urged to take actions for issuance of secure national identification cards, reasonable accommodations such as assistance in the voting booth, tactile ballot guides, low voting booths, magnifying glasses and large grip pens and accessible infrastructure such as ramps and building layouts that allow for easy manoeuvre by those who use assistive devices.

They urged authorities concerned to support and endorse establishment of ‘Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections’, that networks DPOs and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Pakistan to address the issues related to participation of persons with disabilities in political process in collaboration with the Election Commission of Pakistan.