Women’s groups advocate for improved participation in public life
KABUL - Determined to improve women's participation in democratic processes, women’s groups in Kabul and Kandahar provinces are leading advocacy efforts and enlisting support from their local communities.
Working with the media and local institutions, women’s groups are rallying communities to address some of the structural barriers that hinder women’s participation in public and decision-making processes.
In Surobi district, a group of women from rural districts of Kabul province recently came together to share experiences and devise practical steps to get women involved in democratic processes, including upcoming elections.
One of the participants, and head of the Guldara women’s Shura, Najiba Hami shared information about their advocacy work, which included enlisting dozens of women to disseminate material on the voter registration process, as well as checking-up on local Tazkira distribution centers. “I visited a local civil registration centre to monitor the Tazkira registration process, but nothing was happening because they had no camera to take pictures, they said” according to Hami. “I then decided to use my mobile phone to take pictures of all the women applicants - and they were able to obtain their identity cards.” For Hami though, her biggest achievement lies elsewhere: “I am very proud to say that two members of our shura have registered as candidates for council elections,” she said.
Other participants shared similar experiences, including the head of the Surobi women’s Shura, Noor Bibi, who has been lobbying district authorities to set up voter registration and polling centres for women.
Similar advocacy has been taking place around the country. In the south, women organizations are working with local media to reach out to women and communities. During a UN-supported radio discussion on Kandahar’s Zma radio, Aziza Watanwal, a women’s rights activist, urged women to ‘use their constitutional right’ to contest council and parliamentary seats. Kandahar and Kabul provinces have the most number of registered voters in the upcoming October poll.
Fewer women, especially those in rural areas, participate in elections due to a number of reasons including security threats, lack of identification documents and restrictive conservative practices.
The United Nations, together with other international organizations, continues to support Afghanistan’s electoral process, maintaining that the success of the elections lies not only with electoral bodies but also with all stakeholders, including political parties, media, civil society, and voters.