Tribal Districts Elections: The Only Woman Candidate In Khyber Vows To Be ‘Voice Of The Voiceless’
In the tribal regions, women have been voiceless for centuries. Deprived of basic education and healthcare, women have suffered the most from this neglect and there was no women representative for them to stand up and talk for them.
The FATA-KP merger has made it possible to give women a chance to represent the deprived and neglected women in the assemblies. For the first time, a woman hailing from the newly-merged tribal district of Khyber has got the party ticket from Awami National Party (ANP) on the general seat in PK 106 of Khyber district.
In the overall political history of Pakistan, the role of women in the political process is considered as the most important one. But the number of women in the Pakistani political system is very low and it is a matter of great concern.
Naheed Afridi belongs to a very conservative and man dominant region of Khyber where women are not even allowed to get an education. Through her spirit, struggle and hard work, she has got a chance to contest elections.
Talking to Naya Daur exclusively Naheed said, “I am from the male-dominated region of Khyber where life for a woman is very difficult. Women are expected to stay at home and men do the politics.”
She added that contesting election from this region was not less than a pride for her and she will keep struggling for the rights of women of the region.
This Khyber district is one of the tribal districts where all the candidates are men. Naheed is the only woman to contest from the district.
Naheed says she knew that contesting election from a conservative region would be difficult for her, but it was the only way to stand up and become a voice for the voiceless and set an example for other women.
“I urge women to come forward and fight for their rights, because no one else is going to do it for them”, she said.
She said that tribal women should be given ample opportunities to play their due role in the mainstream politics as well as to ensure their participation in decision making and electoral process.
In response to a question, she said that she had decided to contest election from the region because the women of tribal regions were greatly ignored, victimized and mistreated due to the state’s policies. “It’s time to stand up for them and be their voice.”
Many other women rights activists like Sanna Ejaz and Nausheen Jamal, coordinator of Qabaili Khor Organization working for women rights in tribal regions, have also asked for the political empowerment of women and their inclusion in the decision-making process.
Naheed further said, “Activism is a tough job for women in Pakistan because as a women rights activist one has to face many issues including threats to life and bullying by social media trolls who resort to character assassination. Recent examples are Sanna Ejaz and Gulalai Ismail who fell victim to the vitriol.”
Naheed further said that she was not contesting the election to get a seat in the assembly, but her sole motive is to be an inspiration for other women of the tribal region to enter activism and politics.
Beside political worker Naheed Afridi is also the founding member of Thakra Qabaili Khuwinday, a group working for empowerment of the tribal women.
The elections on 16 seats in tribal districts will be held on July 2.