PESHAWAR: A tide of change is taking over Peshawar. Hundreds of its female inhabitants are campaigning for seats in the local government elections being held this week. While this calls for a celebration, there remain cultural taboos that are causing these candidates to hide their identities from the public.
Illustrations on campaign posters of these female candidates include everything except their faces and even their names. Surprisingly, this practice is not limited to only the rural parts of the provincial capital.
“Using pictures on posters is out of the question for any woman candidate, even inside the city,” said a resident of Kakshal, Hayat Khan, while talking to The Express Tribune. “Though there are women who are liberal enough to use their names, many are using only names of their male relatives.”
These candidates are using names of their husbands, brothers or sons on their campaign posters, instead of their own – a fact that does not perturb locals.
Another local Sobat Khan, a resident of Surizai, said he saw a poster which said ‘vote for the mother of Tilawat Shah, Garhi Banat Khan,’ again not mentioning the name of the candidate herself.
“There is nothing new in it. I have seen this practice in nearly every election in the last 15 years,” Khan said, adding that once elected, female members of the local governing bodies do not even attend meetings.
He said it is “an accepted norm” for male relatives of these elected female officials to attend those meetings instead.
“Women can take part in elections. That is enough. There is no need to use their pictures or even names, as it is against our culture,” he added. A majority of women candidates have not given their names on electioneering material; many have not even put up posters or banners, choosing to campaign discreetly in their areas.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Wali Khan, husband of a female candidate who is running for village council Kara Khel in Masho Khel said her campaign was going well.
“I meet male voters asking them to vote for my wife and she meets women, and this arrangement is working out for us,” he said, adding that there are four female candidates vying for the same village council but they are not using any posters.
“We use small cards (to campaign) that say ‘vote for the wife of Wali Khan’,” he said, adding one of the four female candidates, Zarqisha, wife of Tawab Khan, had printed cards with her own name, which was considered quite a bold move on her part.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2015.
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