Afghan Youth Debates: Challenges Facing Women
Thousands of women in the Nangarhar province of eastern Afghanistan remain completely unaware of the April elections and will not take part in them, an IWPR-backed debate has heard.
The event, held for an audience of 100 female students in the eastern city of Jalalabad on December 26, focused on the challenges facing women voters in the build-up to the provincial and presidential elections on April 5.
Mutarama Amin, a member of Nangarhar's provincial council, said that public awareness programmes had failed to engage female voters in the region and accused the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) of failing to address this.
“There are women who are not aware of the elections at all, so how are they going to take part?” Amin asked.
Even women who are aware of the ballot are unlikely to cast their vote, the debate was told.
One student, Selgay, said her mother had banned her from voting because of the security risks.
“My mother told me not to take part in the elections, since no one would count my vote anyway,” she said.
Asma Niazai, an IEC representative in the province, said that official figures showed that 35 per cent of voter registration cards – a legal document required to vote – issued in Nangarhar had gone to women.
Panelist Mangal Shirzad, who lectures in law and politics at Nangarhar University, argued that it was not only women who were likely not to vote. He said that previous elections had proved so corrupt and unsafe that many male voters saw little point in taking part.
Ali Mohammad Sangar, a spokesman for Nangarhar's police chief, told the debate that he was confident that security measures would be in place in time for the vote, even in known trouble spots.
“The security forces are ready to provide security for unsafe areas like the Pachir Agam and Chaparhar districts, and others too,” he said.
Zabihullah Ghazi is an IWPR-trained reporter in Nangarhar.
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.