AFGHANISTAN: Women Professionals Form Body for Political Representation

Thursday, April 4, 2013
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

Women lawmakers, civil society members, media professionals, and government staff have formed a movement to back women's rights in the upcoming presidential election, beginning with a proposal to parliament on securing gender quotas for women candidates.

Supported by the ministry of women's affairs and the gender committee of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), the group is aiming to raise the profile of women's political rights with the backdrop of the 2014 election.

The group is expected to give parliament a proposal next Monday which outlines how to protect women's rights including a demand that gender quotas are introduced in the presidential, parliamentarian, and provincial council elections – with as many as 50 percent of positions allocated to women or that only half the number of votes are required for a female candidate compared to a male candidate.

It also suggests that women candidates should be given funding assistance from the Ministry of Women's Affairs and if they are not elected the funds should be repaid back to the ministry.

"We don't want our rights to fall victim on the path of misdeeds. It is essential to have this proposal considered in the election law," said MP Shukria Barikzai.

"Our intention to put this proposal together was nobody's viewpoint. The only goal was to give more opportunities to the innovative and brave women [of Afghanistan]," MP Farida Nikzad said.

The Foundation for Free and Fair Elections of Afghanistan (FEFA) welcomed the proposal and called on parliament to give it some attention when considering the election law.

"We welcome this initiative by women. There should be more facilities for women considering the current situation in the country because women do not have the same amount of opportunities as have men," said FEFA executive director Jandad Spinghar.

Women rights activists urged that the IEC should include more women in their structure, to which IEC gender committee responded that there are a number of women employed temporarily.

"The election commission has constantly encouraged the role of women in the elections, and it should consider the role of women in the commission's temporary staff," said Farida Khenjani, advisor to IEC's gender committee.

The presidential and provincial council elections will be held April 5, 2014.

Insecurity and lack of sound population data are said to be the main challenges ahead of ensuring a fair and transparent poll.