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Afghanistan: More Women in Local Government, Please

Efforts to achieve equality at provincial level still falling far short.
By IWPR

The Afghan government needs to do more to recruit women to positions in local government, a series of IWPR-organised debates heard this month.

Discussions held in the Herat, Jowzjan and Badakhshan provinces focused on female participation in local government and the workplace in general.

In Faizabad, the provincial capital of the northeastern Badakhshan province, speakers noted that women held under one-fifth of appointed posts in local government.

“There are many expert, educated women in Badakhshan, but government officials aren’t even aware that they exist,” said one speaker, Maryam Amwaj.

Amwaj said women were often excluded because of corruption rather than discrimination. She claimed that many key posts in Badakhshan were simply sold to the highest bidder. As women could not generally afford to pay, they were overlooked.

Haqdar Sharifi, a representative of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Badakhshan, noted that the number of women working in the court system was even lower than in government or elected bodies.

In the Aqcha district of the northern Jowzjan province, Halima Banu Ghazanfar described her experiences as a manager in a local government office. Most of her subordinates were male, and they were unhappy about being supervised by a woman. She added that they also resented her “because I prevent embezzlement and bribery”.

Rahmatullah Hashar, the district government chief in Aqcha, called for vocational and managerial training to allow women to progress to senior government positions.

In the western Herat province, speakers at a debate held in Ghoryan district called on officials and Muslim clerics to work towards equality.

“As a priority, religious scholars should teach men about women’s rights,” said Abdul Hamid, an Islamic scholar himself.

Wahid Poya, a civil society activist from the same region, said many men were held back by the belief that women could not be equal partners in the workplace.

“Women need to take action against these prejudices and [make men] realise how capable they actually are,” he added.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.

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