Prior to the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly Elections 2009, GRACE made its own contribution towards freer and fairer elections by holding two polling workshops for women.
The first workshop was held on November 10 in Brolmo Colony Madrassa and November 11 by approximately 80-90 village women, with a further 40-50 participants enrolling the following day at the repeat event held in Kwardu Al`Zahra Girls Middle School.
In previous elections in the region nearly half of the votes cast by women have been declared invalid due to a lack of procedural awareness in stamping ballet papers. A separate problem had been a common practice by some party agents into tricking women into voting for candidates they had not intended to support. GRACE's aim is to reduce the number of invalid ballet papers in these elections by educating village women about the correct way to stamp their ballet papers. Practical demonstrations were provided by GRACE Public School teachers Aneela, Maryam, Tahira, Samina and GRACE volunteer Evelin Nommiste.
The workshops also included sessions for women to address their questions and concerns. Discussions with village women during these periods revealed a very low awareness about free and fair elections, with many women turning out for reasons of tradition, and voting for candidates as instructed by their husbands. The GRACE workshops succeeded in sensitizing them to stand up for their own rights and also be more discriminating when party political representatives visit villages in the run-up to elections.
And the success of the workshops was quick to come. According to polling station agents, whereas in previous elections where some 20 percent of votes has to be ruled as invalid, after the workshops, not a single invalid vote was cast by any of the women attendees.
GRACE endeavours to empower and improve the quality of life of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the least developed parts of Pakistan through welfare, participatory research and development, capacity building, promotion of best practices and partnership building, advocacy, and by launching sustainable and replicable innovative projects.