Low turnout has marred past elections in Pakistan. But with a new law mandating that at least 10 percent of voters have to be female, more women are getting ready to vote on July 25.

Pakistan usually sees few women voting in general elections but a new law hopes to bring more women out to the polls.
Pakistan usually sees few women voting in general elections but a new law hopes to bring more women out to the polls. (Saba Rehman / )

In  a conservative village in northern Pakistan, its menfolk and village elders had previously prevented the women in their hamlet from voting in past elections 

But as Pakistanis prepare to vote in general elections on Wednesday (July 25), the women of Toru village – tucked in the Mardan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – say they, too, will go to the polls. 

Thanks to the growing reach of the media, more women are now educated about their rights. And a 2017 law, which mandates that at least 10 percent of voters have to be female in any constituency – otherwise the results will be nullified – will likely bring more women out.  

The law was created for many reasons. Some towns and villages have in the past, forbidden women from voting, or had the menfolk voting on their behalf. In previous elections, some areas such as Dir in the aforementioned province, saw some political candidates allegedly coming to an agreement prior to the election to disbar women from voting. This was largely because women were deemed to be inferior, or not allowed to leave their homes.  

For Basnama, who only gave her first name but refused to show her face, her "vote is her power." 

"Women should vote. Sometimes, just one vote makes all the difference," she told TRT World.  

Basnama said she voted in the local bodies elections in 2015.

"And I'll vote again. This is how we can give an opportunity to new people to serve us best."  

Gulisran, an elderly farmer, is hopeful she will get to choose her candidate in this election. "We will need to vote now," she said. 

"The people of Mardan are very politically aware and very excited," Asad Zia, a Pakistani journalist, told TRT World.  "And this time, as compared to previous elections, the turnout in parts of Mardan is expected to be higher."

All the women interviewed byTRT World  were fired up about the upcoming elections.  Armed with their national identity cards, Toru's women plan to vote on Wednesday, a historic event that marks the second-ever democratic transition of power in the nuclear-armed nation of nearly 208 million people. 

Most of the conversation after work or at the water pump is about elections.
Most of the conversation after work or at the water pump is about elections. "Who's contesting, who'd you vote for" are the questions most heard in Toru village. (Saba Rehman / )
The village women treasure their national identity cards, essential documents which are not easy to obtain unless the men of the family are willing to help.  The cards are concealed in locked chests, or in a separate wallet in handbags hidden somewhere. At times, some women hide the identtiy cards inside kitchen utensils to protect them from thieves and burglars.
The village women treasure their national identity cards, essential documents which are not easy to obtain unless the men of the family are willing to help. The cards are concealed in locked chests, or in a separate wallet in handbags hidden somewhere. At times, some women hide the identtiy cards inside kitchen utensils to protect them from thieves and burglars. (Saba Rehman / )
About 106 million registered voters will have the opportunity to elect a new parliament and provincial assemblies. Without identification cards, a voter cannot cast his or her ballot.
About 106 million registered voters will have the opportunity to elect a new parliament and provincial assemblies. Without identification cards, a voter cannot cast his or her ballot. (Saba Rehman / )
During the campaigning that ended on Monday, women political activists have been going door to door to mobilise female voters. Pakistan recorded a 55.02 percent voter turnout in the May 2013 elections. This time, many parties are looking to canvas the female vote to boost their chances of winning.
During the campaigning that ended on Monday, women political activists have been going door to door to mobilise female voters. Pakistan recorded a 55.02 percent voter turnout in the May 2013 elections. This time, many parties are looking to canvas the female vote to boost their chances of winning. (Saba Rehman / )
Reaching rural women is still a difficult task in conservative areas. Many candidates do not manage to reach out directly to female voters, and usually just inform the men and village councils about their manifestos.
Reaching rural women is still a difficult task in conservative areas. Many candidates do not manage to reach out directly to female voters, and usually just inform the men and village councils about their manifestos. (Saba Rehman / )
Ahead of July 25, everyone is talking about the elections and a law requiring 10-percent female voter participation in any constituency.
Ahead of July 25, everyone is talking about the elections and a law requiring 10-percent female voter participation in any constituency. (Saba Rehman / )
Past surveys show that a lack of national identity cards has stopped women from going to the polls. In some areas male relatives can choose to disbar their female relatives from voting.
Past surveys show that a lack of national identity cards has stopped women from going to the polls. In some areas male relatives can choose to disbar their female relatives from voting. (Saba Rehman / )
Source: TRT World