Women’s Voting Rights

Faisalabad District, Punjab Province, Pakistan

Location: Faisalabad District, Punjab Province, Pakistan
Budget: £10,332

Feed the Minds’ partner AWARE has identified an urgent need for voter education among women living in rural areas near the Punjabi city of Faisalabad. An election is to be held in Pakistan in 2013, but the majority of these women are in no position to participate in it. Being among the 45% of Pakistanis (and 60% of Pakistani women) who cannot read and write, they have very limited access to information about government and the role it plays in their lives and very little understanding of their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Few of them are registered voters; some do not even have a National Identity Card, which is required for voter registration Aim
We aim to help rural women acquire knowledge and develop literacy skills which will enable them to understand electoral processes and exercise their voting rights.
AWARE has devised a community-based voter education initiative to raise awareness of electoral processes and voting rights in 10 rural communities in the Faisalabad area. With support from Feed the Minds, AWARE will use the ‘training of trainers’ approach to deliver integrated literacy training and voter education to 1,000 of the most marginalised women in these communities as part of a six-month-long public information campaign designed to increase meaningful participation in the democratic process.
AWARE has considerable experience of running civic education projects but has not previously delivered a project integrating adult literacy training and civic education. We will therefore provide AWARE with capacity-building support, sharing our knowledge of non-formal participatory educational techniques which are effective in helping adults to develop literacy skills and encouraging cross-organisational learning between AWARE and other partners in Pakistan whose experience may be helpful in this context.
At the outset, 30 women – three from each of the 10 target communities – will attend a three-day training of trainers workshop which will equip them to act as volunteer voter educators. The workshop will cover voter registration processes, voters’ rights and responsibilities, the importance of participation in elections, the role and structure of the government and different types of ballot. The focus will be on facilitating discussion among the volunteers regarding ways of effectively communicating information on these topics to other women in their communities. They will be encouraged to use pictures and role-play to make voter education accessible to those who are semi or non-literate. Following the workshop, each community-based group of voter educators will organise a series of five ‘corner meetings’ which will be attended by approximately 100 women. During these three-hour meetings, the voter educators will communicate information about electoral processes and voting rights, offer advice on voter registration and facilitate discussion on issues surrounding participation in elections. The meetings will be complemented by project activities designed to help participants develop literacy skills. These activities, led by voter educators and project staff who have received guidance from experienced literacy facilitators, will focus on teaching women to read and write their names, useful words relating to elections and voting and simple sentences in Urdu. Acquiring these skills will enable women to check whether their names appear on the electoral roll and make sense of ballot papers and signs at polling stations.
Participants in the corner meetings and literacy training will be involved in the design and distribution of IEC materials, including two posters which will use pictures and simple Urdu text to explain, respectively, basic democratic concepts and voters’ rights and responsibilities. 1,000 copies of each of these posters will be printed and displayed in public places throughout the district. Involving project participants in the design process will ensure that they have a firm grasp of the concepts being communicated and are able to explain the posters to other members of their communities.
In addition to corner meetings and literacy training sessions, a one-day seminar on voters’ rights and responsibilities will be held in each of the 10 target communities. Each seminar will give 100 or so local people the opportunity to discuss issues surrounding participation in elections both with each other and with local and national government representatives. The seminars will bring issues of concern to people in marginalised rural communities to the attention of those who have the means to address them, as will a press release outlining 10 problems faced by women in these communities.
As a result of the project, 1,000 rural women will become aware of their voting rights, obtain National Identity Cards, register to vote and participate in the 2013 election. In doing so, they will gain a degree of influence over local politicians who, on recognising their role as electors, will be more likely to listen to their concerns and formulate policies to improve their socio-economic status.
Having obtained National Identity Cards and added their names to the electoral roll, the 1,000 women participants will be able to vote not only in the upcoming election but also in subsequent elections. They will also be able to explain the voter registration process and voting procedures to others in their communities. Similarly, the voter educators will retain their knowledge and skills, meaning that they can be mobilised again in the lead up to future elections, and AWARE, having developed expertise in the area of adult literacy, will be able to use this to increase the impact of future civic education projects.
The budget for this project is £10,332. This represents the cost of building AWARE’s capacity to deliver effective adult literacy training, employing a facilitator for the training of trainers workshop, hiring venues, providing volunteers and participants with refreshments and stationery, developing and printing IEC materials and monitoring and evaluating the project.
We ask the Bishops’ Appeal Committee to consider providing the full amount of funding required for this project: £10,332