Combating patriarchal politics remains a challenge in Pak, Afghanistan

A seminar organized at Afghan Studies Center informed that women around the world are still principally absent from national and local decision-making bodies. They struggle to have a meaningful role in the economic domain, and face exclusion from political processes.

Despite representing half of the global population, women comprise less than 20 percent of the world’s legislators. From discrimination and violence to a lack of support and resources, women face countless challenges to participation in the civic and political life of their countries.

Strengthening women’s rights and addressing barriers to political participation are critical to achieving gender equality and female empowerment, according to Ms. Natasha Rathore, Manager Programmes at Aurat Foundation (AF), who was speaking at Afghan Studies Center’s 23rd Pak-Afghan Youth Dialogue in Islamabad.

Are quotas a sufficient mode of intervention to allow for a quantitative and qualitative decrease in the gender disparity or do we need to do a lot more?

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have reserved seats for women to ensure their substantive political representation. However, the specific modalities of gender quotas and women posted through this mechanism become key determinants that continue to negatively affect their political effectiveness. Women elected through quotas are reported to feel obliged to act for women as a group and are inspired to bring new issues to the table. However, majority seeks to disassociate from the quota and women’s issues. At the same time, many have been accused of acting only as proxies for men and of being excessively loyal to party leaders. Thus, a question arises, are quotas a sufficient mode of intervention to allow for a quantitative and qualitative decrease in the gender disparity or we need to do a lot more?

Youth from Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on the point that combating political patriarchy remains a challenge in both countries. They emphasized less on the electoral process or the overall system and stressed more on the need to change the mindset. The key goes back to economics; only financially strong women can work alongside men in open competition. Hence, education and economic empowerment are the first thing to start with to ensure women empowerment in totality.

This was the 23rd round of Pak-Afghan Youth Dialogue series held under the Afghan Studies Center – a sister organization of the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) – which now has alumni of over 500 Pakistani and Afghan youth. Afghan Studies Center aims at encouraging peace narratives and critical thinking through its monthly Pak-Afghan youth dialogue series, and quarterly training workshops, which focus on the skill development and capacity building of emerging future leaders from both countries.

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