LAHORE: Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) is instrumental in establishing the ground-breaking Local Government Women Councilors’ Caucus and we hope this Caucus would play its due role in advocacy for gender sensitive development at local level, mainstreaming of gender sensitive policies and services and highlighting women issues within the local government structures in the districts of Lahore and Nankana Sahib”.

These views were expressed by speakers at the Launching Ceremony of ‘‘Local Government Women Councilors’ Caucus’’ organized by Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) in collaboration with U.S. Agency for International Development under its Small Grants and Ambassador's Fund Program (SGAFP) here at Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Lahore, today (Thursday). Besides Caucus members, a number of civil society members, LG experts, representatives of government, and media also joined the event.

Begum Zakia Shah Nawaz, Minister for Population Welfare Punjab, was chief guest, while LG expert Zahid Islam, Mumtaz Mughal, Resident Director Aurat Foundation, Bushra Khaliq ED, WISE andKanwal Liaqat, Member of the Caucus , were among main speakers.

Begum Zakia Shah Nawaz, speaking on this occasion, congratulated WISE for its efforts to organize and empower the women political leadership at local level. She termed the newly formed Caucus as big step towards the engendering the local politics and hoped Local Government Women Councilors’ Caucus will be at the forefront in addressing the issues of injustice to women and gender imbalances at grass roots level. She said training is very important for the political workers and I wish this caucus would be instrumental in realizing the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in their respective districts.

Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director- WISE said ‘‘we are excited that our hard work has paid off and the Local Government Women Councilors’ Caucus is finally launched .  The WISE team has worked tirelessly to ensure that this truly historic event is in motion, trailblazing the way for women in politics. ’’Explaining the vision of the newly born Caucus , she said, it would highlight and undertake advocacy for gender sensitive development at local level, mainstreaming of gender sensitive policies and services, and for highlighting women issues within the local government structures.

Briefing about the project, Ms. Bushra said, in collaboration with USAID/NRSP, WISE initiated the project “Strengthening Women Political Leadership in Local Governance Systems” in the two districts of Lahore and Nanka Sahib. Under which WISE provided capacity building training to 650 elected women councilors . These women are now more aware of the functioning of LG system, roles/responsibilities of the councilors as well as women rights. Out of these650 women a 30-Member Caucus of Women Councilors has been evolved after ensuring just representation of various categories and tiers.

Member, Executive Committee of the Caucus , Kanwal Liaqat said: “I am proud to be a part of this caucus . It provides us new vigor to push forward women empowerment agenda, in terms of policy and legislation at district level and further down.’’ Another member, Executive Committee of the Caucus , Khatija Hassan expressed: ‘‘we, the Caucus , will work together to grow as a more open and supportive assembly for our current and future women leaders.  We want to see more women in the caucus and on public boards.”

Mumtaz Mogul said the Caucus as a model for other districts of Punjab to work together beyond party lines to advocate for legislation that takes gender into consideration; and effective implementation of pro-women laws &policies that affects the lives of women and girls. The Caucus should develop its own manifesto.

LG Expert, Zahid Islam said, since the caucus members are now trained and well aware of the functioning of the LG system, therefore it is now their duty to apply their skills and have oversight of the budget-making process and play their role in identification of development schemes and decision making at their levels.