Kandahar forum discusses importance of ensuring nobody is disenfranchised

17 Apr 2018

Kandahar forum discusses importance of ensuring nobody is disenfranchised

KANDAHAR - Educating citizens about their voting rights, and removing barriers that disenfranchise women and rural communities will improve voter turnout in upcoming elections said participants of a UN-backed forum in the southern province of Kandahar.

Featuring panelists from the Independent Election Commission (IEC), civil society, academia, provincial council and the media, the discussion focused on efforts to engage citizens to register as voters, particularly women and rural communities.

Afghanistan commenced the voter registration process on 14 April for the upcoming parliamentary and district elections scheduled for October 2018.

Several speakers expressed concern about what they regarded as the lack to date of voter education and public information on the electoral process, especially in rural provinces, which they said will disenfranchise many, especially women and youth.

“We need more women and young people to vote in this election,” said Haji Athaullah Ata, one of the speakers and a member of Kandahar provincial council. She urged IEC to do more to inform the public about the voter registration process; where to register, voters rights, where and how to exercise those rights and what documents are needed. Others agreed. “Most women in rural areas are not even allowed to have national identity cards, so how do we expect them to vote? Asked Khalida Ahmadi a women’s rights activist from Kandahar.

Although there has been an increase in women’s participation in recent elections with 38 percent female voter-turnout in 2014, fewer women actively participate in elections owing to many factors including isolation, illiteracy, poverty, harmful and archaic traditional practices.

Participants recommended a set of actions to make the electoral process inclusive and legitimate: namely, more information, improved security and making polling centers easily accessible.

Supported by UNAMA regional office in Kandahar, the event was hosted in partnership with Hewad TV and Radio, ahead of the launch of a series of radio programmes and television debates on democratic processes.