Teachers, tribal elders and students have a duty to support the work of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), an IWPR debate in the southeastern Paktia province has heard.
Mohammad Yusuf Molatar, Paktia's regional head of education at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), said that successfully raising public awareness of the April 5 polls depended on the full cooperation of these groups.
Without their backing, he warned, many Afghans would fail to understand the significance of the election, and risked losing out on this opportunity to help shape their country's future.
Women, too, must be encouraged to vote in order to strengthen the fledgling democratic system, Molatar said.
"Raising awareness is not just the responsibility of the IEC; it’s my responsibility and yours," he told the audience. "It's the responsibility of teachers, students, tribal elders and educational organisations to help teach the public how these elections can influence their lives."
The IWPR-backed debate was held at Paktia University in the town of Gardez on November 27, and included guest speakers Nasrin Oriakhil, director of women's affairs for Paktia, and Sher Ali Faizi, the IEC's public outreach officer in the province.
Faizi told the audience that the IEC was continuing its efforts to inform voters about the provincial and presidential elections, was making genuine progress.
He noted that around 44 per cent of people who had registered to vote in Paktia were women. He also said his organisation had dispatched staff to remote districts as part of efforts to raise public awareness.
"We have started awareness programmes for women in villages and we have sent mobile voter registration teams into other areas so that women can participate in the elections," he said.
Raihana, a medical student, raised concerns that female voters faced a very real prospect of violence at polling stations. Oriakhil told her that central parts of the province were considered secure and that women would be safe to vote there.
"Women should take an active part in the elections for the sake of Afghanistan's future," she added.
Mohammad Khan Raihan is a student at Paktia University and an IWPR trainee.
This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.