Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
Women parliamentarians demanded capacity building during a sensitization workshop , Bhurban, Muree

Bhurban, Muree

Women parliamentarians demanded capacity building during a sensitization workshop

After spending two parliamentary years in their respective assemblies, most of women parliamentarians still lack information and capacity to introduce legislation and actively participate in the assemblies’ business.  This was realized during a two-day sensitization workshop when women parliamentarians complained lack of information and support and demanded capacity building sessions on legislative business.   Looking into parliamentary experience of the sitting women parliamentarians reveals that among a total of 211 women parliamentarians who joined the National and provincial assemblies after the General Election 2013, majority i.e. 144 joined in for the first time, and hence needed information and skills on legislative business.

Continuing its process of enhancing the knowledge of newly elected women parliamentarians on legislative process and developing network mechanism among women caucus, Aurat Foundation organized the two-days sensitization workshop with women parliamentarians on ‘Legislative Business and Role of Parliamentarians in Pro-Women legislations’, on April 1-2, 2015, Bhurban, Murree. The workshop was organized under its ‘Gender Based Violence – Advocacy and Capacity Building’ programme supported by Trocaire, Australian Government and Australin Aid. 
Mr Muhammad Mushtaq, Joint Secretary (Legislation), National Assembly, gave a detailed presentation on drafting and moving bills, resolutions and motions, raising Calling Attentions Notices and Point of Orders, putting questions and asking supplementary questions etc.  His session also covered the pre- and post-introduction of  bills e.g. how  and where to get the support for drafting a bill, how to bring the bill on the assembly business, what if the bill is referred to a concerned standing committee, and what if a bill is dropped or lapsed.  
Ms Nusrat Seher Abbassi, MPA, PML-F, Sindh  Assembly, complained that contrary to the practice in National Assembly Urdu translation of a bill is not provided to the members. Members of the National Assembly also complained that they face problems on submitting questions to be taken during the assembly sessions e.g. due to lesser time, a lot of their questions are lapsed, and on Fridays the floors of the assembly leading to Notice Office (office for submitting questions) are blocked due to Friday prayers, whereas the  time for submitting the questions during other  week days is also limited. Pointing to his observation that women parliamentarians usually do not utilize the available resources and support, Mr Mushtaq asked the present members that they shall benefit the researchers and editors and other staff available for their support.  
Ms Maliha Zia, Manager Law and Gender, Aurat Foundation, spoke on legislation and role of parliamentarians, women specific legislation in Pakistan, issues relating to legislating on women in Pakistan, important factors for legislation, role of parliamentarians, and shifting from legislation to implementation.  
She said that women specific legislation in Pakistan is based on the ‘Equality’ clause in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Clause-25 Equality of citizens) which says that all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law, there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex, and nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the protection of women and children.  The article specifically allows for laws which fall within the ambit of affirmative action e.g. the quotas for women or women and children specific laws to be passed without being deemed discriminatory. Keeping in mind the two scenarios mentioned above, there resulted a need for specific law under Article 25, a body of law on different aspects of violence against women and children has emerged over the last 14 years, she further said. 
While describing the issues relating to legislating on women in Pakistan, she  said  that it is important to first recognize the constraints that legislators, especially female legislators face in Pakistan. There are limited resources for research and drafting of legislation within the parliamentary system, which includes financial, as well as technical (research, drafting etc) support.
 There is a need to delineate in a clearer and precise way the policy development prior to the development of legislation. The development of a policy ensures that there has been thought in the determination in detail of exactly what is to be achieved by the legislation.  There must also be a discussion to determine what kind of legislation is required.  The major focus in Pakistan has been on criminalization of different categories of violence.  It is essential to avoid barriers to communication and try to make the law as accessible as possible, she further said. 
The participants pointed out that passage of laws has been a great success but there has been poor implementation.  One of the recommended methods for this purpose would be to focus attention on the different segments of the criminal justice system i.e. the police, medico-legal, lawyers, judges and jails. 
While speaking on the networking  and alliance  building  among  women parliamentarians and their parliamentary caucuses, Dr Rakhshinda Parveen, Consultant and Founder Creative Anger by Rakhshi, discussed the ethical, political tactics and strategies required for such alliance building. 
She suggested that women parliamentarians need to build strategic alliances as no one succeeds alone.  “Adopt the mindset that relationship building is part of your job and development, know your big picture, blend the strategic and the tactical, don’t ever treat people like ‘strategies’ or ‘tactics’, know your communication style, build relationships before you need them, be approachable and be open to the possibilities”, she suggested.
Mr Younas Khalid, Chief Strategy and Policy Officer, Aurat Foundation, spoke about the sustainable development goals and their history, their need, the proposed 17 goals, how these goals were chosen, whether governments are happy about the proposed goals, if the number of goals are expected to be changed, how will the goals be funded and when will these goals come into force?
Earlier, women parliamentarians were asked to share their legislative and political experiences. Ms Rabeea Hadi, Director Advocacy and Ending Violence against Women, Aurat Foundation, while coordinating the session, said that Aurat Foundation is always pro-politics and pro-democracy, and strive hard to provide knowledge, information, and access to resources and institutions.  Briefing the participants about the need for sensitization workshops for women parliamentarians on legislation, she underlined the fact that the General Elections 2013 brought a lot of women first time in the assemblies who had no experience of legislative business and need support in this regards.
Ms Shaista Pervaiz, MNA, PML-N and General Secretary Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC), said that although more pro-women laws are needed, but there is strong need for effective implementation of these laws. While talking about her legislative experience, Ms Kishwar Zehra,  MNA, MQM, said that women member from opposition face a lot  of obstacles in introducing bills, resolutions etc, as mostly the private members bills are ignored or dropped.  
Ms Jamila Gilani, former MNA, and Provincial General Secretary ANP, in  response to other  members’ demand that  women parliamentarians  shall be provided development funds, strongly opposed the demand and said that instead development funds  to men parliamentarians shall be ceased.  Ms Shaheen Shafeeq, MNA, PML-N, suggested that in order to support and rehabilitate women victim of domestic violence, the Women Parliamentary Caucus shall establish its office in each district.  Most of the parliamentarians present in the workshop demanded that more women shall be given opportunity to contest elections on winnable general seats.  Ms Musarat Ahmadzeb, MNA, Independent, even proposed to WPC that women’s reserve seats shall be reduced and instead a quota on general seats shall be created for women.   Other women parliamentarians  present  in the workshop included Ms Nafisa Inayattullah Khan Khattak, MNA, PTI, Ms Sorth Thebo, MPA, PML-F, Sindh Assembly, Ms Asia Naz Tanoli, MNA, PML-N, Ms Aisha Syed, MNA, JI, Ms Shazia Ashtaq Mattu, MNA, PML-N, Ms Shahida Akhtar Ali, MNA, JUI-F, and Ms Surraiya Asghar, MNA, PML-N.
While talking about the achievements on pro-women laws, Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat Foundation, outlined the reality that such achievements would not have been possible without the active support of women political workers from grassroots who faced jails and have always been side by side their leaders.