Prior to the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly Elections 2009, GRACE gave its contribution to the conduction of fair and free elections by holding two polling workshops for women in rural villages of district Skardu.
The workshops were held on November 10 in Brolmo Colony Madrassa and November 11 at Al’Zahra Girls Middle School Kwardu Skardu. The first days workshop was attended by approximately 80-90 village women, the second days workshop had around 40-50 participants. On previous elections in the region nearly half of the votes cast by women have been declared invalid due to low awareness on proper way to stamp the bullet paper. The most common mistakes made by women in stamping in previous elections have been stamping on the lines and double-stamping. Women are also often being misled by opposing parties’ agents to vote for a candidate they did not choose themselves.
GRACE Association was endeavouring to reduce the number of invalid bullet papers in these elections by showing village women the proper way to stamp their bullet papers. GRACE Public School teachers Aneela, Maryam, Tahira, Samina and GRACE volunteer Ms Evelin Nõmmiste were demonstrating to the gathered women with the help of a stamp and copies of polling cards, how to stamp the card in a proper way. The women also had a chance to practice the stamping of polling cards themselves.
As part of the workshop, women also had the possibility to address their questions and concerns to GRACE. Discussions with village women revealed that the awareness about free and fair elections is very low. Many women go to the polling stations just because it is a tradition and they vote for candidates as advised by their husbands. GRACE sensitized them to voice up for their rights and also for their problems when parties’ representatives come to their villages.The impact of the workshop was quick and wonderful. The women attended the poling workshop did not make any false vote this year as reported by the poling station agents while talking with Grace Association members, while during previous election, 20% of the women votes were counted in foul votes at the same polling station.
GRACE endeavours to empower and improve the quality of life of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the least developed parts of Pakistan through welfare, participatory research and development, capacity building, promotion of best practices and partnership building, advocacy, and by launching sustainable and replicable innovative projects.