By Saba IsmailAware Girls Executive Director and National Endowment for Democracy Hurford Youth Fellow at the World Youth Movement for Democracy

 

Aware Girls making peace gestures in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Aware Girls making peace gestures in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

 

Pakistani society is a tribal, feudal, patriarchal, male-dominated and a religiously extremist society affecting the life of Pakistani women. Democracy requires informed participation of the public, and ignoring participation of more than half of the population i.e., women leads to unauthentic democracy. In Pakistan, especially in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province that borders Afghanistan, where tribal and feudal norms and values are prevalent, women’s civic participation and political rights are violated and curbed. In fact, “Women Polling Stations” are torched and “Women Voting” is banned in many areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Additionally, increasing fundamentalism and the TALIBANIZATION of the region discourage women’s participation in political and democratic processes.  Women have been excluded from the public sphere, limiting them to take care of family and home. Schools for girls are being torched, attacked, and closed by TALIBAN, thereby limiting girls’ mobility to participate in social, economic, political, and public spheres. Women are the most marginalized and the most deprived community in the society. Women and girls are considered second class citizens. Social injustices against women are widespread and are deep-rooted in the culture.

 

There is a greater need to focus on the importance of providing opportunities and support to girls who are deprived enjoyment of their basic human rights.

 

Advocating for women’s empowerment is full of challenges in such parts of the world, but some strong young girls are working to promote women’s rights through the platform of the Peshawar-based organization, Aware Girls. Aware Girls is a young, women-led organization working for women’s empowerment, gender equality, and peace in Pakistan. We are working to strengthen the leadership capacity of young women enabling them to act as agents of social change and empowerment in their communities. Aware Girls was initiated in 2002, by a group of young girls who met at a seminar on “Honor Killing” in Peshawar. Aware Girls was established as a platform for young women who want to empower women, and work towards gender equality.

Aware Girls Training

Aware Girls Training

Aware Girls envisions a world where: women’s rights are equally respected as human rights; women have control over their own lives; and where women have equal access to education, employment, governance, justice, legal support, financial resources, recreation, and healthcare, specifically sexual and reproductive healthcare and social services.

 

Aware Girls is working to empower young women by enhancing participation of women in political and democratic processes of the country by imparting political and civic education and leadership skills to young women in more than six districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, enabling them to contribute to their societies as active citizens. We are strengthening the capacity of young women to promote equality, justice, democracy, equality, peace, non-violence, and tolerance in the society. Through this work we have reached countless young women, encouraging them to further develop their political and social skills.  Aware Girls sensitizes the media to raise awareness in the community on the importance of women’s political and civic roles and we engage in advocacy with political parties for creating spaces and opportunities for young women’s meaningful participation in the parties.

 

For more information, visit www.awaregirls.org.

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