Women in Afghanistan’s north call for full participation in upcoming elections

21 Nov 2017

Women in Afghanistan’s north call for full participation in upcoming elections

MAZAR-E-SHARIF - Women’s full participation in elections is essential to ensure an inclusive and credible electoral process, said participants at a UN-backed event in the northern province of Balkh.

The symposium, which brought together more than 20 participants, including women’s rights activists, civil society representatives and government officials, discussed ways to improve women’s participation in elections, both as voters and as candidates.

“There is no shortage of good laws in Afghanistan, including the electoral law,” said Fayaz Mehraeen, an official working in the Balkh governor’s office, stressing that implementing the laws and generating public awareness is where resources should be channeled.

Although there has been a general improvement in the participation of women in recent elections, particularly in the 2014 elections, which saw a 38 per cent female voter turn-out nationally, much more needs to be done, noted participants.

Those attending the event agreed that insecurity in the northern region is the most significant impediment to women participating in elections. They also identified poverty, illiteracy and eroding trust in electoral processes as other impediments.

Women in northern Afghanistan – as in many other parts of the country – face harmful traditional practices that make it less likely for them to participate in public life and also less likely for them to enjoy their fundamental human rights.

Afghanistan is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in July 2018, and presidential elections in 2019. Key recommendations from participants for these elections included specific measures to put women on the ballot, to improve the overall security situation and to launch a nationwide advocacy campaign that would underscore the importance of respecting women’s right to vote.

The United Nations maintains that women’s full participation – as candidates, electoral workers, observers and voters – is a fundamental right, and that enhancing women’s participation in all stages of the electoral process is vital for strengthening democracy.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.