Women leaders to be trained
ISLAMABAD – The women ministry of Pakistan has launched a new programme with the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for the training of female leaders in political processes across local bodies in the country.
“The Women’s Political School [WPS] project will help in institutionalising the process of training of female political leaders, taking into account the dynamic political climate of the country and the upcoming local government elections in 2005,” Nilofar Bakhtiyar, an adviser to the prime minister on women’s development, told IRIN in Islamabad.
The UNDP has granted US $4.5 million for the WPS project which will become an integral component of its Gender Support Programme for Pakistan. The WPS project has been designed to build on the gains made by the Women’s Political Participation Project (W3P), which ran from February 2002 to March 2004. More than 80 percent of elected women councillors from the local government elections of 2000-2001 were given training under the W3P project.
“To further enhance the W3P’s gains, the need for coordinating the efforts of training female political leaders particularly at the local level, was deemed necessary,” said Bakhtiyar. According to a UNDP statement, the project will equally focus on the country’s four provinces in addition to the Federally Administered Tribal and Northern Areas (FATA and FANA), targeting a total of around 40,000 female councillors.
Women rights activists have hailed the initiative. “Education in political processes is necessary for women’s empowerment so that they can have a greater voice,” Asim Malik, regional director of the Aurat Foundation, which works for women’s rights, told IRIN in Peshawar.
Under the “Effective Representation of Women Councillors” programme, the Aurat Foundation has set up 70 resource centres throughout the country. Female councillors are provided with free information on legal issues at the centres.
“We are now working for the women councillors’ forum at the national level so that they can have a stronger voice by forming a separate pressure group,” Malik explained. Bakhtiyar noted that the new project would usher changes in the local political leadership and would require the capability building of female politicians. “This [WPS] will help empower Pakistan’s female politicians to use their public offices to raise women’s issues directly into the policy agenda. It will help them address these issues through public policy,” Bakhtiyar added.
The WPS would provide reliable support networks for women participating in the political process and build the institutional capacities of relevant government departments, civil society and training institutions, the UNDP said.
Source: Daily Times