Rawalpindi (The News International)Women leaders, transgender activists, representatives of religious minorities and persons with special needs from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Thursday shared their recommendations for building an inclusive democracy with participation from all citizens, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic standing, and ability.
The occasion was a ‘People’s Assembly for Creating an Inclusive Democracy.’ Organised by Oxfam, Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation (OAKDF) and Bedari, with support from the Australian government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Programme (ANCP), the platform enabled speakers to highlight the importance of political participation in ensuring that groups existing on the margins of society can have a voice.
The assembly was followed by the vibrant launch of Oxfam’s pre-election campaign ‘Mera Vote, Mera Mustaqbil,’ aimed at encouraging women in 12 districts in Sindh, KPK, and Punjab to exercise their right to vote. Guests were invited to ride in rikshaws bearing messages calling for women’s meaningful participation in the democratic process.

Speaking on the occasion, Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson said, the Australian Government has placed gender equality and women’s empowerment at the centre of its national and foreign policy. Australia has a long-standing commitment to increase the participation of women in politics, economic development and leadership. “The Australian government advocates for inclusive elections, in which women not only cast their votes but are also aware of their right to contest the election and become future leaders,” she said. Oxfam Australia’s Executive Director Dr. Helen Szoke, who is visiting Pakistan, claimed having met in Sindh, “talented, committed and energetic women clearly ready to play leadership roles.
Oxfam’s Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash talked about the numerous challenges that people with special needs and transgender Pakistanis face such as lack of access to healthcare, education, employment and social inclusion. “Only through meaningful participation in the democratic process can they voice their concerns and ensure the safeguarding of their rights,” he said.
OAKF Director Rashda Dohad said, “Affirmative measures in the Elections Act 2017 can help move us forward in our journey towards inclusive democracy. We must work together to utilise these measures.”
Bedari Director Anbreen Ajaib said, it is encouraging that new electoral laws are aimed at ensuring that women participate in elections, not only as voters but also as candidates. “Women are equal citizens and must have equal right to participate in the electoral process. The Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to not accept results from constituencies with less than 10 per cent turnout of women voters will also go a long way in ensuring a strong inclusive democracy,” she said.


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