Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Afghan Youth Debates: Ghazni Women Urged to Get Voter ID
Civil society activists in Ghazni province have urged women to do whatever it takes to obtain the registration cards they need to take part in Afghanistan's coming election.
Foruhar Golestani, a women’s rights activist, told female students at an IWPR-backed debate on February 12 that it was their responsibility to get the cards rather than rely on the authorities to come to them.
If necessary, she said, they should "walk for an hour" to ensure they were registered to vote. The Afghan government did not have the funds to send electoral staff out to every remote district.
"It is your responsibility to go and obtain your registration card," she told the students, some of whom had questioned why officials from the Independent Election Commission (IEC) had not sent mobile teams into rural areas to issue the cards.
"The government does not have a large budget and cannot afford to send a mobile team to everyone,” Golestani said. “You should walk for an hour and obtain your card. Why can't you be bothered to walk?”
The IWPR debate took place at the regional offices of the Afghan information and culture ministry in Ghazni. Around 130 students from Ghazni University attended the event and the guest speakers included civil activists Fahima Fereshta, Tahmina Sediqi and Khatera Sultani.
Audience member Shakila Ghulami asked the panellists why she should believe that the April 5 ballot would have any impact on improving women's rights. Many female voters in the province did not have registration cards and many more were completely unaware of the election, she agued.
"How can you talk about women's rights when so many women have no voting cards, and others in the most remote districts aren't even aware an election is taking place?" she asked.
Golestani denied that this was the case and insisted that women in Ghazni were anxious to take part.
"Women in the villages are not as shy as you think," she said. "They've obtained voting cards and are even more active than women in the towns."
Sultani agreed, and said the IEC had organised mobile teams to assist with issuing cards.
"If we think that women in our villages know nothing [about the election], we are making a mistake. They are very interested," he said.
Zohra Amiri, a student, asked the panel how female voters could be expected to vote when their husbands and fathers would try to prevent them doing so.
"We can’t solve all the problems at once,” Sultani replied. “But we are making progress compared with previous years. Our courageous women will go and vote despite the problems."
Ibadullah Omar is a student at Ghazni 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.
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