Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Advancing the Role of Women in Politics and Civil Society

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Advancing the Role of Women in Politics  and Civil Society

Undoubtedly women are an influential and inspiring class of our society. They are source of change and shining examples of diligence and endurance who are able to push the country towards development. Besides, their contributions toward a strong and vibrant society are increasingly well documented, there is also growing understanding of why women’s meaningful participation is essential to building and sustaining democracy. Because women’s political participation results in tangible gains for democracy, including greater responsiveness to citizen needs, progress and more sustainable peace. Therefore, their productive abilities, skills and participation should be cherished and utilized at all levels, and chiefly in politics and civil society due to many factors.
Firstly, women’s meaningful participation in politics affects both the range of policy issues that are considered and the types of solutions that are proposed. Research indicates that a legislator’s gender has a distinct impact on policy priorities, making it critical that women are present in politics to represent the concerns of women and other marginalized citizens and help improve the responsiveness of policy-making and governance. And as more women reach leadership positions, they tend to prioritize issues that impact health education, and other quality life issues that help women to rise and shine also the country as a whole. In addition, there is strong evidence that as more women are elected to office, there is also a corollary increase in policy-making that reflects the priorities of families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities. Women’s political participation has profound positive and democratic impacts on communities, legislatures, political parties, and citizen’s lives.
Secondly, women are deeply committed to peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction and have a
unique and powerful perspective to bring to the negotiating table. Women often suffer disproportionately during armed conflict and often advocate most strongly for stabilization, reconstruction and the prevention of further conflict. Peace agreements, post-conflict reconstruction and governance have a better chance of long-term success when women are involved. Furthermore, establishing sustainable peace requires transforming power relationships, including achieving more equitable gender relations. For instance, when women are empowered as political leaders, countries often experience higher standards of living with positive developments in education, infrastructure and health, and concrete steps being taken to help make democracy deliver.
Despite these positive indicators and gains, considerable challenges remain to women’s meaningful political participation. And while no ideal environment currently exists to jumpstart the advancement of women’s political advancement, there are certain conditions that make it easier. First, women must have reasonable access to positions of power. Political leadership is often centralized and informal. Holding a formal position, even an elected position, does not necessarily lead to greater influence, as the real leaders do not always hold formal titles. Power in democracies is further built on relationships that often have existed many years. In Afghanistan where women’s public roles are only beginning to develop, women’s absence from this history can present significant barriers. However, by giving women the tools they need to lead, creating the opportunity for advancement and helping build networks of like-minded men and women, and ensuring that women’s legal rights are firmly entrenched, a pathway to power can be developed.
Next, transparency in the political and legislative processes is critical to the advancement of women in political and civil society. The lack of openness in political decision-making and undemocratic internal processes are challenging for all newcomers, but particularly for women. Similarly, the complex hierarchies in political parties and legislatures represent a barrier to many women who enter politics at the local level and aspire to rise to other levels of leadership.
Moreover, there must be the willingness of citizens specially men to accept new ideas about gender roles in society despite the fact that there will be challenges in doing that because there are still possibilities in discouraging women from competing directly with men or consider childcare and housekeeping to be the exclusive domain of women.  As such, it is common throughout the world to see women activists supporting democratic activities at the grassroots level, yet to see few women in leadership positions, thereby creating an absence of women from whom to draw for higher levels of political leadership. Concerted efforts must be made to raise awareness of gender inequality and the ways in which stereotypical gender roles create both formal and informal barriers. The support of male political leaders is also a key ingredient in creating a political climate that encourages women’s political participation. Moreover, there are many more effective approaches to encourage women’s political participation in political arena. Conducting ongoing communications trainings, focusing on building leadership skills, training women to train other women, developing the capacity and preparedness of elected women, and engaging youth to help change socio-political attitudes and behavior.
Participation of women in civil society organizations (CSOs) and particularly where women hold leadership positions can play a key role in supporting increased women’s political participation and women leaders. Furthermore, they can advocate for issues concerning them and provide technical expertise on key policy issues and help illustrate how policies may affect men and women, and boys and girls differently. Involvement in civil society also gives women the opportunity to influence government and gain visibility, credibility and respect, and to help mitigate barriers to women’s political participation.
In many regions, civic organizations are led by women, and are often viewed as vehicles for women’s leadership; they have emerged as incubators for women to cultivate their political and personal power. Creating strong partnerships among women in civic organizations and women in political parties and elected office can help advance a common women’s agenda in a coordinated way. Furthermore, partnerships between civic organizations - that are critical in reaching and educating citizens - political parties and elected officials help build networks, develop relationships, and sustain trust and communication at the grassroots level.
In last consideration, the government, influential leaders, political parties should increase the political participation of women because where women are at the same table with men, inevitably there is greater stability, greater progress and greater chance to translate dreams to reality and push the country towards equality and prosperity because women are the driving force behind every success story.

Ahmad Shah Karimi is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at ahmadshah.karimi12@gmail.com

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