Speakers urge for more rights to women

ISLAMABAD-For the first time Election Commission of Pakistan in collaboration with NADRA has made it mandatory with visits of mobile registration vans (MRVs) to ensure registration of transgender persons and people-with-disabilities at their doorstep to make political processes inclusive.
This was stated by Nighat Siddique, Director General Gender Affairs, ECP here at Lok Virsa during the second day of 15th Annual Rural Women Conference organized by PODA – Pakistan in Islamabad. However, there are also other facilities like preferential voting procedure and postal ballot facility which can be used actively by old people, transgender persons and people-with-disabilities.
The rural women representing 120 districts of the country urged all the political parties to allocate 50 percent tickets to women candidates in elections at national, provincial and local levels. PODA-Pakistan has been organizing an annual rural women conference since 2008 in connection with the International Rural Women Day that is observed on 15th of October every year. This is the consecutive 15th conference in which rural women from 120 districts of the country have gathered urging policymakers to optimize women’s role and contributions in the overall progress of the country.
Ms. Nighat Siddique applauded the role of the civil society and the government institutions which played a crucial role in reducing the gender gap in voter registration from 10 percent to 8.6 percent. “To reduce the existing gap of seven hundred thousand between women and men voters, Election Commission of Pakistan in collaboration with National Database Registration Authority has decided to extend Computerized National Identity Card and voter registration facilities to 13 more districts in Balochistan. With this we are also focusing on enhancing registration in newly merged districts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” said Nighat Siddique, DG, ECP addressing the audience of rural women representing 120 districts of the country. 
The session focused on “Developing Rural Women’s Linkages with Disability Working Group of the Election Commission.” For this session, ECP partnered with PODA-Pakistan. ECP has set up a stall to demonstrate the entire voting process at the conference venue. 
Pakistan is one of the most unequal countries in the world for women, ranked at 153 out of 156 countries. Earlier, representing four provinces and regions of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, wide range rural women leaders shared their testimonies to highlight problems and suggest indigenous practical solutions. Rural women who shared their local issues with the ECP representative included Sughra Bano from Sahiwal, Bismillah Irum - Khanewal, Veru Kolan - Hyderabad, Naheeda Abbasi - Chakwal, Raheema Sultana - Rawalpindi, Shazia Jamil - Lasbela, Saima Batool - Vehari, Mehak Butt - Multan, Qaisra Isamil and Nosheen NMDs NMDs KP, and Shahida Irshad from Quetta.
Later, Dr. Robina stressed the need to set the minimum age for marriage at 18 years to save girls from a wide range of emotional, physical and psychological illnesses. She narrated a dismal picture of the girls who get married at an early age in all regions of Pakistan. “At the moment, there are 35,000 girls with fistulas, which is an implication of early age marriages among girls. 
The girls affected by this condition during childbirth are forced to live with animals because they are not able to control their urine. This happens due to early marriages.” Dr. Robina advocated strongly saving girls from the social curse of child marriage, especially in flood-affected areas.
Sharing miseries of flood victims of people of Swat, Rukhsana Jahengir said “My Swat is in pain due to the sufferings and loss caused by current floods in the area. People are in dire need of help of all kinds.” Amna Jamali briefed about the situation of the flood-affected areas of Balochistan.

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