Afghan women prepare to cast their votes

24 Jul 2009

Women in Mazar prepare for the Aug. 20 elections.
(Photo: Amandine Roche (UNDP/ELECT)

By Shafiqullah Waak, UNAMA

For Latifa Sayed, 34, the last two months have been very rewarding. She has been working as an election civic educator and teaching less educated women in the city of Jalalabad, west of the capital Kabul, about the upcoming elections.
 
The schoolteacher-turned-civic educator - employed by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) – said it’s not easy to make the mostly illiterate women understand the intricacies of the August 20 presidential and provincial council elections.

“I am satisfied with my work, and the election awareness programme amongst women is going very well in Jalalabad as well as in rural areas,” Ms. Sayed told the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) after giving one of her civic-education classes to over 50 women gathered at the Jalalabad offices of the Afghanistan Women Centre (AWC).

“Girls and women welcome us and participate in the gatherings with an enthusiasm but, unfortunately, most of our illiterate women don’t know what a Provincial Council is or what a Parliament is,” she added. “That is why we explain, first of all, the structure of the National Assembly and Provincial Councils, on top of the core electoral processes.”

“Many girls and women intend to participate in the election but most of them are worried about the security of the polling centres. We hope the government will provide a secure environment on election day in all the centres, especially, in the female polling centres.”

According to Ruhullah Mumand, a civic education officer at the IEC office for the province of Nangarhar, Latifa is a very active female civic educator. “She has organised more than 50 public gatherings in different parts of the province’s capital, Jalalabad city – in girls’ schools, governmental and non-governmental organisations’ offices, Women Affairs Department,” said Mr. Mumand.

Zainab Jan is one of the participants of the literacy course of the AWC, who has been studying for the last five months.

“I was eager to hear and know more about elections and participate in the Presidential and Provincial Council elections,” said Ms. Zainab. “The election awareness programme has been very useful, we learned many things and received interesting information on elections and its mechanisms.”

“I am very happy that the forthcoming elections which are being conducted by the Afghan authorities. The first presidential and parliamentary elections were led by the international community but now, luckily, our Afghan brothers and sisters are able to take the lead.  It’s a remarkable achievement, and we should thank the international community for helping us. We have to vote for candidates, who are capable to serve the people, and women should take an active part in the all fields of our lives, including elections.”

Ms. Sadaf, the Director of AWC in Nangarhar, said that “many attendants of our literacy courses did not have sufficient information about the elections and they really needed to hear more about them. That is why we agreed with the IEC civic educators when they contacted us to launch an election awareness programme in our centre.”

A total of 100 civic educators, divided into 50 groups, including female groups are working in the  Nangarhar province. There are eight groups in Jalalabad city and 42 groups in the 22 districts that make up the province.

Resources:

Learn more about the UNDP electoral programme in Afghanistan: Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow – ELECT.

Learn more about the programme's civic education initiatives.