In Pakistan, where instability, distrust, violence and political rivalries can impede interaction among political parties, women and young people — the majority of the population — often have difficulty making their voices heard.
According to some estimates, more than 60 percent of Pakistanis are under the age of 35. Yet women and young people seldom have leadership opportunities or seats on decision making bodies.
To help enhance their leadership and training skills, young representatives from four major political parties came together in Karachi in late May and again in July with the aim of developing the capabilities of their own parties to train party members in professional party building and campaign organizing. Over half of the participants were women and more than 80 percent of them were under 35.
These were multiparty forums, which can be challenging in Karachi where violence often erupts between political parties. “It’s only because of this platform…that we are able to sit together with other political parties,” said Rahat Javed, president of the women’s wing of Sindh PML, a political party that is a coalition partner with the governing Pakistan People’s Party, and a participant in the workshop. “Otherwise it’s difficult for us to interact even for 10 minutes.”
Graduates of the Training Fellowship program will form training units within their parties to conduct regular training of their party colleagues. Between the first and second modules of the program, participants trained over 450 local party members on leadership skills and communications.
Participants said they were enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by the program, particularly to build the skills that party members need to take on leadership roles in their district associations and to organize professional election campaigns.
The Training Fellowship is an opportunity for young party activists to build the confidence needed to take on leadership roles. “This has been a real revolution in my life,” said Abdullah Yasir Sheikh, a young leader from the PPP. “Participation in this workshop has changed my approach…Now I feel I am a more confident person and able to speak publically without any hesitation.”
Training Fellows will also learn facilitation skills to help them moderate discussion groups within their parties on strategic planning for campaigns, policy development and other topics. These skills will allow them to increase dialogue within their parties that will help the parties develop policies and election platforms that are more responsive to voter concerns.
The Training Fellowship program is part of a Political Parties Development Program being conducted by NDI that focuses on helping parties institutionalize democratic policy development processes, as well as develop internal party training and research programs. The program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
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Published July 16, 2012