Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, August 18th, 2019

The New Era and Afghan Women Political Expansion (Part 2)


The New Era and Afghan Women Political Expansion (Part 2)

After the removal of the Taliban, according to the Bonn Conference Agreements, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Afghanistan was established in the framework of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan in Qawas of 1380. Also, several other women’s organizations that were established either before Bonn Conference or After, heightened their activities for paving the way for Afghan women participation in social, cultural, economic, and political processes in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) which is a non-governmental organization (NGO) was created in 1996 by Afghan women following the World Conference on Women in Beijing with the aim of empowering women and ensure their equal participation in Afghan society.Currently, it operates in Kabul, Heart, Balkh, Kandahar, Bamyan, Paktia, Nangarhar, and Kunduz. This organization has more than 3,500 individual members (exclusively women) and 125 women’s organizations with memberships. It is said that AWN is the biggest and the most politicallyinfluential Afghan women organization in Afghanistan. Likewise, another political organization that encourages women to take part in political processes is Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) founded in 1977. RAWA is one of the most prominent Afghan women’s organizations. According to RAWA’s website, this organization has been working since 1977 for the liberation, democracy and the rights of women in Afghanistan.
In the political and social life of Afghanistan after the Taliban, 2009 was one of the most important years in contemporary history Afghanistan. Afghanistan witnessed the second round of presidential elections in pursuit of democracy and peace, the adoption of democratic institutions and practices in the administration of the country and reliance on citizens’ rights and freedoms. The campaign for 2009 presidential election provided civil society and women’s rights activists with an opportunity to share their common demands with government officials, and to make the community more responsive to their needs. Taking the provided golden opportunities, the women’s empowerment group was formed that began their activities under Afghan Women Fifty Percent Campaign. This organizationfights forwomen’s participation in voting and running for political positions and track the demands of women from Afghan politicians and international gatherings. On the eve of the Bonn Conference, a statement issued by this organization wanted the participants in the conference and the Afghan government not to bargain on women’s rights with Taliban. As per the statement of The Fifty Percent Campaign activists, women make up half the population or half of the voters, and Afghan presidential candidates must pay attention to the demands of women in order to win their votes.
Sima Samar, a well-known woman’s and human rights advocate, activist and a social worker within national and international forums, who served as Minister of Women’s Affairs of Afghanistan from December 2001 to 2003, and the current Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) founded the Martyrs Institute in 1989. Itis a non-governmental and non-profit organization. This instituteis to protect the health of Afghan citizens, especially women and children. The Martyrs Institute is currently operating in nine provinces of Afghanistan. It is the oldest non-governmental organization in the region and the largest woman-led NGO that was active in the tough times of the Taliban period. Dr. Sima Samar, the founder of the Martyrs Institute, has received several human rights and peace prizes and had been nominated in 2009 for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Unlike the previously mentioned Afghan women organizations, the Young Women for Change, a nonprofit organization was established in 2011 in Kabul by two young Afghan women, Noorjahan Akbar, and Anita Haidary. Next, this is the only movement that young men along with young Afghan women are advocating against sexual discrimination and inequality in Afghanistan. It has dozens of male and female voluntary members. The members of the Young Women for Change are committed to women’s empowerment through economic, social, political, andparticipation in the society. The institute is well-known among the youth of the country.
Now that the upcoming parliamentary and district election is approaching, and the candidates need women’s votes, the issue of women’s participation is getting more pivotal for candidate. As a usual and ironic question, how doAfghan political elites, candidates,and public think about women’s participation in political processes? It can be said with certainty that majority of parliamentary candidates and political elites in Afghanistan have an exploitative approach toward women’s participation in the political processes. This means that women’s political participation is circumscribed to the polling centers. Such an exploitative understanding of women’s political participation is a serious obstacle to women’s political and social development. Since Afghanistan is a highly collective and traditional society, the grassroots mindsets are also influenced by the society’s elites’ perspectives. Most of the families in Afghanistan consider girls and women’s roles limited to doing households, and other spheres that are less dominated by males such asbeing a teacher at schools and serving at a hospital as a doctor. A few Afghan families let their women and girls become politicians and social scientist.
So, to expand the participation of women in male dominated areas, we need to change our understanding of women’s political participation in the political processes and let them appear in public as men do. But how women can experience such changes practically in the society is a daunting challenge and question both for the government and women themselves. In order to help women engage in the political, social, cultural, and economic spheres equally with their male counterparts, the government of Afghanistan and other related organizations should take the following measures:
Recommendations for Policy Implications
First, a significant issue in political and social participation is political socialization.Political socialization is a continuous learning process in which individuals, through acquainting themselves with the political system, learn from their rights and roles in society through information and experiences. This process helps women adapt to the accepted forms of organized social life, and teaches them the talents, essential social desires, and in particular the social roles that women must play in society. Ultimately, it helps women attend various social fields.
Second, education is the most important element of political and social participation and, ultimately, the development of a community. The most important element in the development of a community is the people of that society – men and women, who must have cultural and political awareness and knowledge. As Emile Durkheim states: Education is a process in which a woman learns through practices that are functional in a community or group in the political, social, and intellectual fields. To educate women about the importance of participation and awareness by the press, audio and visual media, active organizations in the society. These measures should be consistent with women’s specific circumstances, talents,and motivations. In particular, the necessary social education must be carried out through K-12 education and higher education in the form of textbooks and curricula so that women from the same age receive the pre-requisites for social and political activities.
Third, the communities, government,and other social organizations should have a rational and reasonable approach toward the character of girls and women, and let them taste the importance of ownership, thought and creativity. If women are provided opportunities to explore their talents, enhance their self-confidence, think about their own fate, the society will flourish manifolds faster. It will provide better opportunities for women’s political and social participation in the society. Of course, it should be noted that for women to have a positive social status in society, it is necessary that educational institutions and environments such as the family, sports clubs, working offices should have the necessary conditions for the development of the social character of women.
Last but not the least, creating suitable opportunities for female participation in various scientific and practical scenes, such as universities, research centers, factories and other social activities can provide the motivation for increasing women’s political and social participation. Therefore, if women’s social and political participation is increased in the light of these factors, given that many social science thinkers, including Samuel Huntington, consider the social and political participation of people as one of the tools of community development. It can be concluded that increasing the political and social participation of women means increasing their contribution to the development of society.

Hamid Bamik is a Graduate Student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis University of Missouri-Columbia, USA. He can be reached at hbqwf@mail.missouri.edu.

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