The majority of people are unhappy about their interactions with government departments, according to a survey carried out by a non-governmental organisation. The solution might lie in a gender-sensitive, representative and democratically-elected local government system.
These are some of the findings and recommendations of a “Gender Governance Performance Scorecard Report” launched by Pattan Development Organisation on Saturday. The report was based on the experiences of 2,219 men and women, from eight districts, who recorded their interactions with 26 departments and officials between October 2012 and May 2013, using scorecards provided by Pattan.
The respondents were asked to categorise their interactions as “good,” “neither good nor bad” and “bad.” The scorecard had symbols of smiling and sad faces, and pictures for departments, to guide illiterate respondents.
Of the 25,746 responses received from the participants, the highest number --- around 47 per cent --- of responses fell in the “bad” category, said Pattan National Coordinator Sarwar Bari. Only 33 per cent “good” responses were received. Overall Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), Baitul Maal, police, irrigation, agriculture and labour departments received the most negative scores from the respondents.
For women respondents, the three worst departments were Wapda, Social Welfare and the police while for men, Food/PASCO, Wapda and the police got the worst scores, according to the report. Women disliked their interactions with the Benazir Income Support Programme more than men and men seemed to have more bad experiences with the police than women, the report showed.
Overall, 69 per cent of the respondents had “bad” interactions with their MNAs and 52.3 per cent did not appreciate meeting their MPAs. Except the Election Commission of Pakistan, banks and Education, all departments had more than 50 per cent consistently good experiences across the gender divide.
One reason for the bad experiences is the colonial client-patron system of the service delivery in the country, Bari said. “We need to have a strong local government system to undo the client-patron.” The systems should be truly gender sensitive, representative of all segments of society and democratic,” he added.
Paiman Trust Executive Director Mussarat Qadeem, who is also a member of Pattan’s board of governors, said there is a lack of awareness about rights at the community level and an equal lack of political will to improve people’s lives. “Policymakers, especially women who are in a position to influence decisions, should be sensitised about gender,” Qadeem said. “But people also have to start holding their elected representatives accountable by asking questions.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Rafeeq Rajwana said there was no discrimination in the law but society was discriminatory. Responding to a question, he said he would look into the issue that the proposed local government ordinance clause for quota of women, youth and peasants in local councils does not get exploited on the basis of nepotism due to the quota.
BISP, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Health, elected representatives, Education and police received the overall highest number of entries, mainly due to frequent interactions between the public and these departments. Women recorded 1,570 more entries than men but there were also around 500 more women in the sample than men.
The scorecard project, which will continue for another year, is being conducted in Layyah, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Shikarpur, Kashmore, Nowshera and Swat, all flood-affected districts, some with low levels of literacy and high poverty rates.
The scorecards were part of a bigger project, funded by the United Nations Democracy, which aims to reduce gender disparities and build local democratic organisations to increase women’s participation in the democratic process.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2013.