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Women up against challenges including insecurity

Women up against challenges including insecurity

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May 20, 2018 - 15:05

HERAT CITY (Pajhwok): Womeninfo-icon activists in western Heart province believe increasing insecurity and lack of public awareness may impede females’ participation in upcoming parliamentary and district council elections.

They recall women’s participation had been outstanding in the previous polls. In the October ballot, however, their presence may be smaller. A month has passed since the launch of the voter registration process, but only a handful of women have been documented.

 Pajhwok’s reporter in Herat spoke to a large number of women activists in political and social spheres about the presence of women in the election process. Most of them called insecurity and lack of awareness as major challenges for Herati women.

Malalai Alvi, a women’s right activist, is worried about women’s tepid participation in the electoral process. She said growing security threats; patriarchy and women’s economic reliance on men were among the fundamental challenges facing women in Herat.

She thought these issues had weakened women’s interest in participating in the democratic exercise. Although their share in power has been nominal, women have always been active in the national mainstream.

Despite the odds they have been up against, women’s role has been recognised in social, political, cultural and economic fields. Given the widespread participation of women in national processes, Alvi suggested, the government should not ignore them.

Susan Behbudzad, another activist, also stressed women’s role in the political domain, particularly in the electoral exercise. She called for raising awareness among women about the significance of polls in remote areas.

“Women, 50 percent of thee population, have a key role to play in the electoral process, both as mother and family leader. But, unfortunately, many women in far-flung areas don’t know anything about the election process and its importance,” she remarked.

Wahida Samadi, another civil societyinfo-icon activist, opined women could choose the right people to make society better. Research shows fewer women than men are involved in corruption. They could prove their honesty as elected public representatives, she said, asking the government to facilitate women’s political campaigns.

Other women held similar views. Farzana, a resident of Herat City, expressed her concern at challenges being faced by women and called on the government to provide an appropriate environmentinfo-icon for women to come forward and contest the elections.

Maria Bashar, a potential candidate for Wolesi Jirgainfo-icon (lower house) polls, expressed concern about a large number of women being barred from contesting the elections.

She told Pajhwok Afghan News although women in the city had a high level of understanding and ability to play an effective part in the upcoming elections, they were being deprived of their rights in districts and remote areas of the province.

In much of the countryside, she said, women did not have ID cards and even did not know about the importance of this process. The Independent Election Commission (IECinfo-icon) had failed in terms of promoting public awareness, she alleged.

Growing instability

Sakina Hussaini, a provincial council (PC) member, voiced her concern over greater insecurity in the districts than the last elections. With the polls drawing closer, she noted, instability had increased across the province.

She recalled: “A few days back, some people from Guzra, the closest district to the provincial capital, told me over the phone that Talibaninfo-icon have asked them to for zakatinfo-icon and ushr. This is but one example of insecurity in districts.”

Hussaini urged all women to register as voters and elect people of their choice in the upcoming elections.

She stressed the centrality of women’s vote to determining their political future. “I don’t ask omen to vote for women. You can vote for men -- those who won’t compromise on the upcoming generation’s future.”

Unwilling to take part in polls

 Fatima, a resident of Shindand, claimed with the passing of each day, insecurity was increasing in the district. Due to their bitter memories of the last polls, people might not take part in the upcoming vote.

The previous elections were marred by fraud, and for this reason, she did not want to vote in the October elections. She would be insecure on the one hand and was not convinced of the government and the commission’s ability to conduct transparent elections on the other.

Herat police agree security threats exist in Shindand, Zerkoh, Pushtkoh, Koh Zor districts and in parts of Kashak, Rubat Sangi, Kashak Kohna, Gulran, Adraskan and Farsi districts.

Meanwhile, Abdul Ahad Walizada, provincial police spokesman, claimed the security situation in Herat was better than in any other province. Afghan security forces were trying to secure all polling stations in troubled areas, he added.

Lack of awareness

Abdul Qadir Kamil, a political analyst in Herat, proposed the government and the IEC should manage the election processes in a way that all women were enabled to exercise their voting right.

He said that if women were no provided with facility of casting their vote, the elections’ legitimacy would be questioned for the public.

Aziza Karimi, Herat women affairs directed, stressed the need for women’s participation in the elections. She said most of women in districts had little information about elections.

She said public awareness materials were recently shared by the IEC with the women affairs department. Her office would start an awareness programme for women in Herat districts in cooperation with Hajjinfo-icon and Islamic Affairs Department.

On the other hand, Daud Sediqzada, IEC representative for Herat, said the commission had finalised comprehensive programs for public awareness through media and preachers -- both for men and women in Herat.

According to IEC, 101,326 people including 44,108 women registered as voters in Herat between April 14 and May 14. Under the relevant law, Wolesi Jirga elections should have been conducted three years ago.

But the process was delayed for many reasons and the lower house members continued serving three years after the expiry of their term in compliance with a presidential order. The Wolesi Jirga and district council elections are scheduled for October 20.

Herat is one of large and important provinces of Afghanistaninfo-icon, having 19 districts.  Five newly created districts are Shindand, Poshtkoh, Koh Zor-O-Zawal.

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