Training youth

By Shaheen Quresh, President, Blue Veins

From Margins to Mainstream: Better Local Government System and Improved Accountability through Community Participation 

New Initiative for Improved Accountability

The Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed the Local Government Act 2013, on 30th October 2013, and the provincial government has set up a new form and structure of local government; thus, there was dire need to educate and mobilize the community on the new structure and setup of the local government for better service delivery and enhanced accountability.

Blue Veins determined that there was a need to identify and implement tools which would allow citizens to hold their elected representatives accountable for deliverables promised in campaign platforms and election campaigns. Blue Veins saw the need to build the capacity of the community so that its members were able to communicate with their elected leaders and advocate for pressing issues within their communities in a strategic manner because it has the potential to underpin allocation; use of power was also identified.

The goal was to establish informed public opinion and create awareness about the structure, importance, and need for efficient and elected local government system and sensitize relevant stakeholders including: political parties, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), elected representatives, citizens, media, and others about effective implementation of the local government laws and to contribute into increasing public confidence in political and electoral process and improve governance as characterized by accountability, inclusivity, and enhanced public participation in decision making.

Objectives

The objectives were:

  1. To facilitate potential candidates, particularly from marginalized communities, in running for office in the local government elections; and
  2. To mobilize citizens, particularly women, to vote in the local government elections.

Overall progress of the project included the following:

  • Training of 50 male and 50 female youth volunteers.
  • Information, education, and communication (IEC) materials including posters, broachers and flyers were produced.v
  • Training of 400 election candidates on the structure of local government and election management through 16 one-day training workshops.v
  • Profiling of 20 polling areas with the history of women barred from votes.v
  • 20 key stakeholder meetings to increase women participation in local government elections and address the issue of women barred from voting.v
  • 20 letters to Election Commission of Pakistan highlighting the issue of women being barred to vote in particular polling areas of district Peshawar and called for appropriate actions.
  • Identification of polling areas where women turnout is historically low for engagement with community.v
  • 20 community meetings in identified areas to encourage community members to vote and support women voters to use their right to vote and discourage the practice of stopping women from voting.
  • Two district level all-political parties round table meetings were organized in district Peshawar to sign declaration that they will not support the barring of women from voting and that they will use their influence to end this practice in their areas.
  • Four media briefings were organized in the issue of women being barred from voting in the district Peshawar.
  • 300 radio messages/spots on the local government structure and mandate and the importance of voting in the local government election.
  • 16 kiosks were installed at prominent public places where youth volunteers disseminated IEC materials to passersby.
  • Profiling of winning candidates and Training Need Assessment was done for future actions.

Capacity-building Trainings of 100 Youth Volunteers

Four training workshops were conducted during the reporting period to build the capacity of 50 male and 50 female volunteers and introduce them to the Local Government Act 2013 and discuss with them the role of youth volunteers in the project activities and how would their role contribute in organizing inclusive and transparent elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The age range of volunteers were from 18-30.

The purpose of organizing four capacity-building training workshops for 50 male and 50 female participants was to educate the volunteers on the local government system, increase their understanding on the importance of fair and transparent elections, and educate the volunteers on the Local Govt. Act 2013 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

We also helped the volunteers understand how their project activities are relevant and important to the upcoming local body government, the role they can play in organizing a meaningful and inclusive elections, to inform that youth volunteers on various activities they will be volunteering in district Peshawar related to local government elections, and to assist individual activities being implemented during project by the youth volunteers.

Printing of IEC Material

Information. education, communication (IEC) material was printed the month of April 2015 which included a 4-page voter mobilization brochure, four types of posters, three types of flyers, and a 4-page polling agent checklist for training of male and women candidates.

16 One-day Capacity-building Trainings for Candidates on Reserved Seats

Sixteen one day training workshops were organized for 400 election candidates and their representatives for reserved seats and general candidates and each trainings had 25 participants.

The purpose of the candidate and their representatives' training was to introduce them to the Local Govt Act 2013, the local government system and its importance with the special focus to election management, and the roles, rights and responsibilities of the election candidates and their representatives.

Identification of 20 Polling Areas with Restriction on Women Voting

In consultation with community elders and Election Commission of Pakistan, 20 polling areas in district Peshawar were identified where women faced restrictions on their right to vote and were barred from voting in 2013 general elections.

The purpose of identification of 20 polling areas with restriction on women voting was identify 20 such polling areas where women were barred from voting in the 2013 general elections and were deprived from their constitutional right of voting – and to intervene in these areas through multi-stake holder meetings, as well as to bring the attention of Election Commission of Pakistan through letter writing towards the areas where women were barred at some point and their voting was stopped with the consent of candidates, religious leaders, and community elders.

Profiling of 20 Women Barred from Polling Areas and Key Stakeholder Meetings where there is Restriction on Women's Voting

Profiling of 20 areas where women were barred from voting in district Peshawar was completed. The profiling of these areas included the name of the village/area, its union council, estimated population of the village, number of registered voters, casts living in the identified areas, the source of the gathered information and the reason of barring women from voting.

The profiling of these areas aimed to gather baseline information of the areas ad identify the reasons of women being stopped from voting. After the profiling of these areas, eight multi-stakeholder meetings were organized in the identified area in the reporting period. These meetings were attended by local influentials such as local body election candidates, political leaders, tribal elders, candidates, prayer leaders, and others.

The purpose of profiling of 20 polling areas with restriction on women voting was to gather basic information for intervention in terms of organizing multi stakeholder meetings and write to Election Commission of Pakistan to take in time and effective measures to ensure that women are not barred from voting in Local Government Elections.

After the profiling of these areas, multi stakeholder meeting were organized in which candidates from the area, community influential, political activists, tribe leaders and religious leaders from the area participated. The purpose of the multi stakeholders meetings was to harness support for women voting in the area and create awareness on the importance and legal position of women voting according to the constitution of Pakistan.

The community elders and candidates of the local government election were mobilized to sign a declaration that they will not become part of any written or verbal agreement or arrangement which will stop women from voting.

Key Stakeholder Meetings Where There is Restriction on Women Voting

Profiling of 20 areas where women were barred from voting in district Peshawar was completed in April in the reporting period and eight multi-stakeholder meetings were organized in the month of April 2015 while 12 multi-stakeholder meetings were organized in the month of May 2015 in identified areas.

These meetings were attended by local influential such as local body election candidates, political leaders, tribal elders, candidates, prayer leaders and others. Multi-stakeholder meetings were organized in which candidates from the area, community influential, political activists, tribe leaders and religious leaders from the area participated.

The purpose of the multi-stakeholders meetings was to harness support for women voting in the area and create awareness on the importance and legal position of women voting according to the constitution of Pakistan.

The community elders and candidates of the local government election were mobilized to sign a declaration that they will not become part of any written or verbal agreement or arrangement which will stop women from voting.

Meeting with Political Party Office Bearers on Women Voting Restrictions, Project Objectives and Strategies

Meetings were organized with office-bearers of 10 political parties to inform them of the issue of women being barred from voting, and of project objectives and strategies.

The meetings were also used to invite the office-bearers to the political party’s roundtable. Meetings were organized with office-bearers of 10 active political parties in district Peshawar including Jamiat Ulmae Islam (JUIF), Awami National Party (ANP), National Party (NP), Jumat e Islami (JI), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), Pakistan Mulsim League Quaide Azam (PMLQ), Awami National party Wali, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) to inform them of the issue of women being barred from voting, and of project objectives and strategies.

In addition, the meetings were used to invite the office-bearers to the political party’s roundtable and inform them about Blue Veins' intervention of strengthen citizens’ voice for free, fair and peaceful elections in district Peshawar which aim to increase voter turnout, advocacy against discrimination or barriers to voting, engaging young voters for proactive and constructive role in ensuring peaceful elections and creating awareness about dispute resolution mechanisms relating to elections.

Two District-level Round Table Meetings of Political Parties

Two round table meetings of political parties were held in district Peshawar. One roundtable was organized during the month of April 2015 while another round table of political parties in district Peshawar was organized in the reporting period of May 2015 in which office-bearers of political parties participated.

The round tables were organized to discuss the issue of women being barred from voting.

Political parties were asked to sign declarations that they will not support the barring of women from voting and that they will use their influence to end the practice in their areas.

The roundtable was organized at Peshawar Press Club. The purpose of the roundtable was to bring the active political parties in district Peshawar on one page and get their endorsement for the women’s right to vote and mobilize them to sign a declaration that their political party will not stop women from voting and will not be in any such agreement or arrangement which will bar women from voting.

Media Briefing on Issues of Women's Voting Restrictions and Other Issues

Four media briefings after the political parties round table was organized the on the issue of women being barred from voting in the district in 2013 general elections and the general trend of abusing women’s right to vote . Journalists from print and electronic media were invited to the briefing – especially journalists on the election beat.

The organizing of media briefings had several purposes which included briefing media on the outcome of all-party roundtable meeting, streamlining the issue of women’s right to vote in media and inform wider audience on the issue of women barred from votes in previous elections and contribute in efforts that women are not stopped from voting in local government (LG) elections, and receive facilitation from community service organisations (CSOs), media, candidates, and political parties.

20 Community Meetings in Areas where Women Voters are Barred from Voting or Where the General Voting Turnout is Low

Twenty community meetings were organized in polling areas where either women voters were barred from voting or the general turnout has historically remained low.

The meetings engaged with the citizens to raise their awareness on the importance of the local government system and the need for all citizens’ participation in electoral processes. The purpose of the community meetings was to engage the citizens to raise their knowledge on the need and importance of local government system and the need of all citizens of the country to participate in the electoral process.

The meetings aimed to mobilize community to encourage women voters to take part in the electoral process and campaign and educate the community not to become part of any agreement and arrangements which restricts women right of vote which is fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan.

150 Radio Promos/Messages on Local Government Structure and Mandate

One hundred fifty promos/messages on local government structure and mandate were aired through 101 – the popular local radio station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to air 100-150 messages; each promo was 30 seconds long, on the local government structure and mandate.

The purpose of the airing the promos through a popular FM radio was to informed and educate wide range of audience on the local Govt structure and mandate and mobilize the audience to vote in the upcoming election.

150 radio promos/ messages on importance of voting in local Government elections

An additional 150 promos/ messages on importance of voting in local government elections were aired through 101 the popular local radio station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to air 100-150 messages; each promo was 30 seconds long, on the local government structure and mandate.

The purpose of the airing the promos through a popular FM radio was to inform and educate wide range of audience on the importance of voting in local government elections and mobilize the audience to vote in the upcoming election.

Sixteen 7-day Voter Information Kiosks (stalls) for General Public (@ 1,750 visitors per stall) at Prominent Places.

During the last week before election, 16 kiosks at prominent public places were established, where youth volunteers, BV disseminated information, education, and communication (IEC) materials to passersby.

The purpose of establishing information kiosks (stalls) for general public was to extend outreach to 28,000 beneficiaries (passersby) through dissemination of IEC material printed for this purpose and engage citizens by providing them access to credible information about the local government.

Profiling of Winning Candidates and Training Need Assesment (TNA) Survey

After the election results, Blue Veins carried out Training Need Assessment (TNA) of the winning candidates.

The Training Need Assessment (TNA) helped in determining the capacity-building needs of the candidates and helped Blue Veins understand that newly elected representatives – especially women, youth, and minorities, who are comparatively less familiar with the new or amended laws, rules and procedures of the local government (LG) systems, administrative hierarchy, and delegation of powers.

There is a need to build the capacity and enhance understanding of the elected representatives to promote effective and efficient local government systems.

Based on the findings of the assessment, Blue Veins has planned a 5 months long initiative beginning in October 2015 to enhance the capacity of elected representatives and strengthening citizens’ engagement for transparent, responsive, efficient, and accountable local government in district Peshawar.