Strengthening women’s participation in elections – focus of UN Global Open Days in Afghanistan
KABUL - Strengthening women’s participation in all aspects of the electoral process was the focus of this year’s Global Open Days events across Afghanistan, a series of nationwide dialogues around women, peace and security.
“Women’s political empowerment is essential to Afghanistan’s development,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, told delegates in Kabul participating in a final event of this year’s campaign. “Women’s participation in elections, both as voters and as candidates, is crucial.”
The UN envoy, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), added that when women’s participation in elections is fully supported, “Afghanistan benefits from the opportunity of tapping into their immense capacity to contribute to shaping laws and policies that will impact their lives and those of their fellow Afghans.”
Mr Yamamoto stressed that “every effort should be made, as well as concrete steps taken, to ensure women’s meaningful participation.”
At today’s event to mark the 2017 ‘Global Open Day on Women, Peace and Security,’ Afghan women outlined the challenges women face as voters, candidates and activists. They stressed that real participation in elections means that women have the capacity and freedom to vote for candidates of their choosing, without being forced or pressured to do so.
Mr Yamamoto echoed their sentiments, and stressed that discouraging women in any way from voting or participating in elections runs counter to Afghanistan’s obligations under national and international human rights laws, and only serves to foster the marginalization of women from processes that affect their lives and everyone around them.
The discussions also focused on the necessity for a secure environment in which women may cast their votes, as well as the difficulties women in remote, rural districts face, particularly in terms of the distances they must travel to reach polling centres.
The 22 November event in Kabul follows Global Open Days events organized by UNAMA across Afghanistan, where UN officials met with delegates representing 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. In Farah, Herat, Mazar, Maimana and Badakshan, participants selected three panellists for radio programmes that focused on the importance of women’s participation in elections. And in Jalalabad, a televised roundtable discussion highlighted the importance of the protection and promotion of women’s rights to enable an environment in which women can run safely for elected office, and can register, vote and campaign freely.
Paying tribute to the efforts of women leaders and civil society activists to advance women’s political rights in Afghanistan, Rebecca Tavares, the Country Representative ad interim for the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), emphasized the need for continued encouragement and support by all actors and stakeholders for women to be active participants in political decision-making, from the local to the national level.
“I encourage the Afghan government to develop and implement gender-sensitive security and elections plans, as these are critical enabling considerations for women’s participation in elections,” said Ms Tavares, who stressed that the protection and promotion of women’s rights to political participation, including in elections, is the primary role of Government.
“We need to recognize the immense potential of women and heed their voices by fostering an environment that encourages their participation in the political sphere and elections,” added Ms Tavares.
Launched in 2010, Open Days events are designed to support dialogue between UN senior leadership and women’s organizations across the world on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and its subsequent seven UN Resolutions.
These instruments engender women’s leadership and meaningful participation in political and security transitions, including peace-building.
In recalling Afghanistan’s national action plan on UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which was launched in July 2015, the UN officials gathered at the Kabul event reiterated the commitment of the UN to support efforts by Afghan institutions and civil society to empower women and encourage their full participation in the upcoming elections.
UNAMA compiled the recommendations, views and issues raised by women in the countrywide consultations in a report, which is available on request.