Call for change

IN recent times, Pakistan has witnessed some encouraging signs of women`s political participation. For instance, Tharparkar district recorded an unprecedented 71pc female voter turnout in 2018, and women in Swabi are this time actively campaigning in traditionally male-dominated spaces. However, these positive strides contrast sharply with the still persistent gender disparity in election candidacies: out of 65,916 total candidates, only 3,235 (4.91pc) are women. This disproportionate representationis consistent across provinces, with Sindh leading marginally at 5.39pc and Balochistan trailing at a mere 3.14pc. Such disparity reflects deeper societal issues that limit women`s participation in politics.

The PTI, despite losing its poll symbol, fielded 20 women for general seats out of 234 candidates, a small but significant step towards gender inclusivity. However, its candidates are now contesting independently, which may impact their visibility and support. Tribal customs hinder the campaign efforts of women candidates in several areas, such as KP`s Khyber district, restricting their outreach primarily to female voters.

This scenario underlines the urgent need for systemic change.

Political parties must not only increase the number of women candidates but also create an environment conducive to their active participation. This includes challenging deep-rooted patriarchal norms and providing women with the resources and support necessary to run effective campaigns. Furthermore, women`s representation on general seats is crucial for genuine empowerment. While reserved seats are essential, they often do not provide the same level of influence and resources as general seats. Women elected on general seats have access to development funds and a more substantial say in legislative matters, directly impacting their constituencies. While there are glimmers of progress, much remains to be done. Our political landscape needs a transformative shift towards gender inclusivity. This is not just a matter of equitable representation but a fundamental requirement for a democratic and progressive society.