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Afghanistan - Valg 2005: Kun få kvinder har ressourcer til at føre valgkamp!

AFGHANISTAN: Female candidates speak out as campaigning closes

IRINnews.org, 16. september 2005

Opstilling af kvinder til parlamentsvalg og regionalråd støder mod mange traditionelle forhindringer. Kun få kvinder har mulighed for at mobilisere de nødvendige ressourcer, men der er positive vurderinger af deres fremtidige politiske funktion.

This female election candidate is an exception - with the resources to have campaign posters made - ©  Sultan Massoodi/IRIN
MAZAR-E-SHARIF, 16 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - 45-year-old Farema Warakzai from the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, is standing in Sunday’s parliamentary election. She’s confident that women candidates will do well in the historic poll – because they had not been responsible for the decades of violence the nation endured.

"We have not used guns against the people, so they will vote for us." she said, adding people should be free to choose who they vote for and not be influenced by warlords and regional strongmen, who many fear will influence the polls.

On Thursday, candidates could be seen out on the streets of this ancient city, some in cars, some on donkeys, some with loudhailers and makeshift sound systems, trying their best to muster as much support as they could before campaigning officially ended on Friday morning.

Despite her optimism about the election, along with many other female candidates in conservative Afghanistan, Warakzai was unhappy that there had not been additional support for them in the electoral process. "We did not have enough budgets to carry on our campaigns, compared to men, because this society is so unequal," she complained.

Another female candidate in Mazar said she had gone into debt to contest the election. "I have borrowed much money for this electoral campaign." Pashton Qaderi, said, adding she had limited her campaigning to the city itself, due to a lack of security in rural areas nearby.

Up to 6,000 Afghans have registered to stand in the legislative and provincial council elections scheduled for 18 September.

According to the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), of the 2,900 people registered to run for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (lower house), nearly 350 were women. Afghan electoral law requires that at least 68 seats in the general assembly be reserved for women.

When Lawngina, a 35-year-old school teacher from the ultra-conservative Pashtun province of Paktika, in southeastern Afghanistan, told her family that she was contesting the country's landmark legislative polls, the first in 30 years, she faced stiff resistance.

"My family first strived to convince me to withdraw my candidacy. Later they prevented me from campaigning and even did not allow me to distribute my posters. Most of the people in Paktika are very narrow-minded and traditionalists. They do not want women to campaign," said the widow, who had been forced to quit campaigning in the province and move to Kabul.

In neighbouring Paktia province, another woman, Nafeesa Rishtin is contesting the election in the provincial capital of Gardez. In contrast to Lawngina's experience, she said she had been welcomed in most communities where she had campaigned.

"I have travelled to faraway districts and returned home late in the evening, but I did not have security problems. My only complaint is that a lack of resources has prevented me from doing more for my campaign," she said.

She mentioned the fact that she was up against male candidates who were splashing out on printing huge posters and calling big meetings. "This kind of thing is well beyond my means," she lamented.

JEMB officials said they were aware that women candidates had to contend with security and cultural problems in rural areas, but said they were unaware of any particular cases of harassment.

"Yes, women generally face security threats in districts and there are also traditional impediments ahead of their campaigning, but as we have been monitoring the situation there was no big issue of such problems," JEMB head, Dr Mohammad Nader Nikyar, said.

But according to Afghan women's affairs minister Masouda Jalal, social relations in Afghanistan had militated against women's participation in elections. "The main reason thousands of women didn't become candidates is that they can't afford the financial expenses," Jalal said in a recent interview.

Men remain in charge of most households' budgets in the strongly traditional and Muslim society.

In another southeastern province, Khost, Wolesi Jirga candidate Mahboba Sadat Ismaili, said money had been a key factor in the election. "I believe that those who spent lots of money and conducted good campaigns have more chance to win the elections. Those that did not have little chance of making their way to the parliament or the provincial councils."

Meanwhile, a female candidate was wounded in an attack by unidentified gunmen in the Wigal district of the northeastern Nuristan province on Wednesday evening. Armed men opened fire at Wolesi Jirga candidate Hawa Alam Nuristani while she was campaigning in the area. She is still at the US-led coalition force's base in Bagram outside Kabul, receiving medical treatment.

A week ago, another female candidate was attacked in the Khogyani district of the neighbouring Nangarhar provinces, but escaped unhurt while three of her companions were injured. Safia Seddiqi said the attack came while she was campaigning in the Wazir-Pirakhelo area.

Last month, Zahra Sahel, a candidate campaigning in Mazar, also survived an attempt on her life when a car tried to run her down.

Joshua Wright, a spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said on Thursday they had received about 2,700 complaints from across Afghanistan, of which some 2,000 had been addressed while 700 were still being investigated. Some were from women candidates complaining of harassment and intimidation, but did not say what percentage of all complaints these concerns made up.

"There are systematic complaints from female candidates in provinces and in the capital about security problems they had, about violence and harassments," Wright noted.

© IRIN - This article appeared originally on IRIN News.org and is published by engelund.dk according a general agreement. To view the original article, please click here.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is a project of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]


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Opdateret d. 3.10.2005