Building women’s leadership in the most difficult places (Pakistan) – case study for your comments

Editorial / Opinion Piece / Blog Post

June 5, 2014

Building women’s leadership in the most difficult places (Pakistan) – case study for your comments

Well known for its highly articulate and influential women, Pakistan is also notorious for the severe restrictions placed on women’s personal and political liberties.

The Raising Her Voice (RHV) programme entered this very complex and sensitive issue by building a country level partnership with the Aurat Foundation (AF), which for the past 26 years has promoted women’s empowerment and citizens’ participation in governance. Working together, the RHV programme and AF established Women Leaders Groups (WLGs) in 30 districts across Pakistan.

In each WLG, 50 women, representing different political parties and with affiliations to a broad cross-section of community and civil society organizations (CSOs), came together for the first time to develop mutual trust and strengthen their collective voice. The WLGs are influential in their communities and have high levels of confidence and well-developed networks. Despite their ideological and party political differences, the women leaders see eye to eye on many women’s rights issues. They are able to work together to resolve local problems, such as violations of women’s employment rights and cases of domestic violence.

At the national level WLGs, in consultation with CACs and other community organizations, were the driving force behind the creation of a Women’s Manifesto for political parties. Ninety WLG members ran for political office in the 2013 election.

At the district and community level, WLGs have become powerful pressure groups. Whether advocating for the resolution of cases of sexual abuse in local schools, or custody rights and the right to a dowry after a marriage breakdown following physical abuse. Gaining strength and finding safety in numbers, they have challenged exclusively male arbitration bodies, which traditionally decide the fate – which can sometimes mean death – of women and girls in family disputes. In the political sphere too, their impact has been tangible. 31% of WLG members surveyed indicated that political changes had occurred with substantial anecdotal evidence of individuals in Departments receiving them respectfully and taking them seriously

This is a conversational blog written and maintained by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of ‘From Poverty to Power’. This personal reflection is not intended as a comprehensive statement of Oxfam's agreed policies.

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