Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - Islamabad—Gender Election Monitoring Mission issues preliminary report here on Monday reported huge women voter turnout in General Election 2013 who remained standing in queues since morning till the closing time. “Despite pre-election times threats and attacks, female voters turned out in big numbers often present from the beginning, very enthusiastic, including old age, middle age, youth, mothers with babies and children, disabled women, women carers coming along with their families, neighbours, relatives or friends” said Sabra Bano, Head of the Mission.
Addressing a press conference she said given the circumstances, the tenacity of women was amazing. In Sragodha, women voted for the first time in history in union councils Lilliani and Moazamabad, she further said. She informed that GEM observation mission from Gender Concerns International in partnership with the Aurat Foundation, sent out 110 observers, to monitor election activities from gender perspective throughout the day at 555 women polling stations all over Pakistan.
The experience of international and domestic observers was mixed together in order to obtain a maximum result. Election monitoring was undertaken in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Swabi, Kohat, Swat, Abbottabad, Mardan, Lower Dir, Hyderabad, Thatta, Sargodha, Bhakkar, Vehari and Gujranwala. The GEM Mission’s international observer team included Sabra Bano, Head of the Mission, Magda De Meyer, the Deputy Head of the Mission who have monitored previous elections in Libya (2012), Morocco (2011), Tunisia (2011), and Pakistan (2008).
While in some polling stations, Sabro Bano said, political agents seemed to have taken over the task of the administrative staff and have been found to ‘guide’ the female voters, in others campaigning was going on inside polling stations. In Upper Dir it was the case in the entire district and only one woman was able to cast her vote in Union Council (UC) Darora. In Lower Dir, women were stopped from voting in seven constituencies and in Buner district women were not allowed to vote in 17 UCs. Women were also barred to vote in several constituencies in Mardan, D.I.Khan, Nowshera, Batagram and Malakand.
“Although we regret that ECP is an `all men’s club’ , we do recognize that ECP did an enormous effort to reach out to female voters and to set up as many polling stations so that women did not have to cover great distances (the 2km rule)”, she observed. The introduction of Short Messaging Service facility to find out where to vote and under which number, was very successful with literate and young women, the GEM head said.
Although there were more Polling Stations (PSs) closer to the women’s homes, the facility itself often was not up to mark too small PSs, burning hot inside, no privacy for the voters. Police and security often male was found in female polling stations, not always aware of exact procedures, she said adding, for instance the fact that the observers could enter before opening, that they could assist counting.—APP
Source: Pak Observer