Shahida Malka Awan, house wife and mother of four, comes from a remote village in the Khanewal District of Punjab. A champion for special welfare issues affecting her community and long- term member of a major political party of Pakistan, Shahida has never shied away from tackling a challenge. The conservative environment of her village, however, provided few opportunities for woman to lead. Nevertheless, she was determined to be heard.
BY NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE STAFF
Shahida’s passion for development could not be ignored. Her party eventually appointed her to a task force working to involve citizens’ voice and research in party policies. She soon becomes a vocal member of the group. Her advocacy for holding direct elections for local government pasts gained support from her colleagues and eventually was adopted by the government.
Soon thereafter, the party nominated Shahida for union council membership in a seat reserved for woman. Shahida turned down the nominated. Instead, she wanted to run in the open election for the council chair position. She convinced the party leadership to put her name on the ballot and was determined to gain more support than senior male candidates for the position. She won the election. Shahida become the first female elected union chair in the district.
Shahida credits her training under the USAID political Parties Development Program (PPDP) for her success. “I used skills I learned during the PPDP training to run my campaign.” She said. “They taught me how to develop messages and talk to people unfamiliar with politics. The training proved its worth!”
PPDP strengthens democracy be helping political parties create policies that are inclusive, research-driven, and responsive to citizens’ concerns. Such changes can lead to greater confidence in the role of governments and the democratic process. The project also trained over 280 people from 11 parties to develop communication skills to convey their ideas and policies to the public.
“I won this election because of woman voters,” Shahida said. “I was afraid that a majority of them would not make it to the polling stations given the conservative norms of our villages. In the end, I received their overwhelming support. I motivated and mobilized them by explaining that no matter how much they wanted me to win, I could only win if they came out to vote for me. My real success is to provide woman citizen with a purpose to come out and vote….
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