In Pakistan, attacks in schools, universities and polling stations continued to disrupt education and democracy.
More than 50,000 people have died in terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the last decade. In the turbulent border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, these are an everyday occurrence.
Armed groups have great influence over social and political life, and often actively recruit in schools and madrassas. Young people are particularly vulnerable to recruitment.
We continue to work with Aware Girls, a women-led organisation working for the empowerment of young women, gender equality, democracy and peace. They come face to face with the government crackdown when speaking out against injustices like forced marriage and gang rape. In May 2019, we saw the crux of government anger against these activities, when Aware Girls co-founder, Gulalai Ismail, came under direct attack and was forced to go into hiding, eventually fleeing the country.
Since 2020, we have been working with two further local organisation as part of our Local Action Fund; supporting them on training, research and youth empowerment activities.
Learn more about our partners with the Local Action Fund.
Standing up to violence, standing for elections
Aware Girls continue to champion women’s participation in politics and elections, making impressive strides in their advocacy and community awareness work. They identified officials working for the Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP) they could best work with for policy change in favour of female representation, and in response to sustained pressure from Aware Girls and other women’s rights activists, the ECP deployed female staff in polling stations, and the Electoral Law was implemented. This is a major step in women’s participation and inclusion – made possible by our partner’s sustained efforts in a challenging environment. Now, for an election to be considered valid, at least 10% of voters, and 5% of electoral seats must be women.
In their words: Shumaila's Story*
My name is Shumaila. I am 24 years old and I am a nursing student. I come from Sherpao village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. As a young woman, I am passionate about my community’s issues. I have seen too few women represented in community decision-making and development. However, I didn’t have the confidence and skills to become active in the civic and political life of my community.
After I participated in training with Aware Girls my confidence grew. I gained new skills and decided to join a political party with the aim of working for the welfare of women. My parents weren’t going to let me do this, however after much persuasion they agreed. I joined a political party and started using my new skills in peer education and community mobilisation to reach out to other women.
On the day of the 2018 general election, I realised that women were not going to polling stations. I had to do something about this, so I booked four vehicles and started going to every home to ask women to come out to vote with me. I continued this for hours and kept on taking women out to vote. I didn’t count the exact number of women; however, I must have mobilised and enabled hundreds of women to go to the polls to vote on Election Day.
*Name changed and photos representative for security reasons.
Photo: Daniel Berehulak