Let's Keep It Civilised Sisters!


Pakistan: According to figures, almost 60 percent of the 86 million registered voters cast their votes in the 2013 elections, and while detailed gender disaggregated data are not available, female participation in the electoral process is reportedly higher than in the past. Photo/DFID

Selma Rahman of Women for Independence's National Committee celebrates civilised democratic engagement! 

I mean the debates, meetings and hustings for the May elections.

With the announcement March 22nd of (some) of the tax, spend and save regimes coming from the four main parties, the starting gun has been fired, albeit mutedly. Leafletting is in full swing, printers are rubbing their hands in glee, pavements are being pounded.

But let’s assume from the start that those within WFI who have been chosen to represent their various parties have achieved that, fair and square. Let’s then assume that the successful candidates are doing so out of the just and morale belief in those parties, their policies, and what they believe they can contribute to a positive future for Scotland. And let’s hope we’re not going to be subjected to the vacillations of  ‘wanna-be career’ politicians who come with initial rhetoric and little else later on.

Robust debate? Of course! Intelligent arguments with facts? Yes, please. Reams of statistics?  Less stats, please, since too often, stats hide the real people, real events, real situations. And surely that’s what WFI’s about; real people, events, situations, affecting change where and when we can.

We’ve seen WFI excel pre- and post- Indey Ref 1with campaigns, meetings, events that united and stirred so many. OK, we’ve been a bit shaken too. But think of the current newly launched #WFIJusticeWatch. Remember #MediaWatch? And what about our contributions to the debates around land ownership, shopping local, local economics, supporting women as they take chances and opportunities to make changes for themselves and others? That’s what we have been, are doing and should continue to do; open and supportive, with room for dialogue, debate, discussion and yes, diversion, too.

So really, no spitting: yes, it has been known.  No hair pulling: not too sure about that one.  No frothing at the mouth: an image of UKIP, sorry! And ‘in yer face’? No need, just respect the space, please.  

Let’s face it,  here in Scotland we are (somewhat) better off democratically than many. And when you take a moment to look around, beyond our borders, I do believe there is more that could and should unite us, rather than separates us.

In the past, I’ve stood in queues for hours in the sun to vote. I’ve had my thumbs marked in indelible ink: a badge of honour to show I had voted. Heady days indeed, in old East Pakistan, prior to the 1971 revolution, and the establishment of Bangladesh.

Was I going to object to the fact I was in a ‘woman only’ queue? Was I hell! We were there because we’d made our voices heard, we campaigned, we’d held voter registration events, we’d gone to women where they lived, where they worked.

One queue or two?  One door or two? It didn’t matter, that wasn’t the issue, that wasn’t the fight we were fighting. We were voting and no one would stop us. I suppose I was considered part of the elite, running my own business, driving my own car, but you know what, I can still only read and write one language, English. So like so many of my sisters, who couldn’t read and write one language, their own, I stood there in the booth, and had to search down the list, looking for the pictorial depiction that illustrated my party, my candidate. Quite an equalising situation I promise you.

Just very recently, I came across a woman, an Egyptian MP, Asma Nosseir, a professor at the Al Azhar University, Cairo, who is, I’ve been told, drafting legislation to ban the full face veil, the niqab. In the U A E there are innumerable womens’ organisations that we could both recognise and empathise with, not least those working with victims and survivors of domestic abuse and others promoting economic independence for women. I may disagree with very much of the state politics in those countries and across the region in general, but when women are doing it with and for other women, I need to listen to what they have to say. At home then, let’s live up to what we say: let’s do politics differently.

Let’s begin by ensuring  that we listen and are listened to. Let’s leave the argie-bargie to others. Let’s leave that shoutey, posturing, name calling & innuendo to those who have to fall back on such tactics since they have nothing positive to offer.

Sure, we’ll fight these elections, and then mobilise to fight the next fight,  then the next, and then the next. We know we can!  

But let’s keep it civilised, sisters!



A young Pakistani voter displays the distinct ink-mark that signifies she voted. From the article by By Gareth Aicken and Ameena Ilahi

Other information available from www.pathwaysofempowerment.org

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