Afghan Youth Debate: Why No Female Candidates?

Students attending an IWPR debate in the north Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif complained about the lack of female representation in politics.

"Why are there no women leading political groups at provincial or country level?" asked Mahbuba, a second year journalism student. “These groups are all run by men."

The issue was debated on December 5 at one of a series of discussion events which are being held at universities around Afghanistan as part of IWPR programme work designed to increase youth participation in the presidential and provincial elections scheduled for April 2014.

No female candidate has got through the approval process to stand in the race to succeed President Hamed Karzai. In the provincial elections, women account for just 11 per cent of candidates.

Before an audience made up of students from Balkh University, Najib Paikan, a member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, said that while the government was keen to portray female voters as "active in our democracy", this was far from the case.

Women would struggle to take part in the election, he maintained, yet their participation was essential to the "sustainability and transparency" of the process.

Mohammad Arif Anwari is a student at Balkh University in Mazar-e Sharif.

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.


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