Erada daily: Women make up 20% of registered voters in Mazar-e-Sharif
The UN representative office has organised a seminar to encourage women to have a bigger role in the presidential elections due next year [starting March 20]. A UN representative in Mazar-e-Sharif [capital of the northern Balkh Province] says 500 women have taken part in the seminar.
So far, more than 50,000 people in Mazar-e-Sharif have registered for the elections, 20% of them women. Officials at the Electoral Committee in the city have called on the media to give people more information about the elections and the registration process.
Mosharekat-e-Melli [National Participation] weekly, No 47: I suggest that everybody should be mobilised – interview with Mahmud Hakimi, the Central Regions’ Elections Director
Q: Mr Hakimi, these days there are reports about the people of Bamyan warmly welcoming the electoral registration process. As the person in charge of the Hazarajat elections zone, could you please tell us about this?
Mr Hakimi: For the purpose of the elections, Afghanistan has been divided into eight zones, one of which covers Bamyan and the central regions that are referred to as the Central Island. We began registering people at the beginning of December 2003. Six of our civic trainers visited the area before the arrival of the registration group and talked to people about the important of registering themselves and obtaining electoral cards. Such awareness raising was as important as the registration itself.
Thank God, we succeeded and by the end of December we had managed to register more than 23,000 people, about half of whom were women. Our teams are made up of women and men’s teams and [male and female] eligible voters are registered separately. The welcome we have received has been unprecedented. The registration process in Bamyan was so glorious that foreign officials from the United Nations have repeatedly congratulated me for the people’s response and participation.
Of course, I must point out that this presence and response has its roots in Bamyan’s past, because Bamyan officials’ civil and very responsible attitude towards the people during the war prepared the grounds for the growth of such a spirit. Secondly, because of the Taliban’s extreme pressure, the people now want to take advantage of the opportunity that has been created to vote for democracy, social justice and humane policies.
In spite of the traditions and customs in the area, we have no problems with registration in Bamyan. Women visit the registration centres without any worries, are photographed, sign up and receive their cards. This has astounded my colleagues in other zones. I should also point out that the police in Bamyan have cooperated with us fully and have ensured security for our teams.
Q: Elections are a new experience for the people. How far do they understand the process and appreciate its importance?
Mr Hakimi: First of all, I should point out that the electoral card is in effect an identity card. It is very interesting to note that for the first time in the history of Afghanistan women are being issued with identity cards, because every person who reaches the age of 18 can receive a card and have the right to vote.
As for people’s understanding, we can appreciate it by noting their sincere participation in the process. Women and men in Afghanistan today, especially women and men in Hazarajat, know that they are valued and that their votes are valued. By receiving electoral cards, they firstly receive identity and nationality documents, and secondly they use the cards to vote for their favourite person as the country’s future leader. I believe the people appreciate the importance of the elections even more than we do.
However, I would still suggest that everybody should be mobilised and that we should provide the people with even more information about the importance of registration, because even one vote from our people could have a decisive effect on the country’s fate. People in other parts of the Central Regions should also be informed about the process. Come spring, we will open eleven more offices in central Afghanistan to ensure that all eligible voters are registered.
Q: Have you made any special observations during the registration process?
Mr Hakimi: What I found really exciting was to see that in Bamyan’s freezing temperatures, women would stand in line for hours to receive their cards and most of them would ask for the names of the candidates. This was a clear demonstration of their sensitivity towards their fate.
Another interesting observation was to see a boy who had reached the age of 18 but had a small physique. My foreign colleague would not give him a card, saying he was not 18. The boy cried and a few minutes later brought along several elder members of the community to testify that he was 18. Eventually, he managed to get his card and as he was leaving I could see and hear his happy laughter.
Seerat women’s weekly, Nos 103-104: Afghan women take part in Eid-e-Qorban prayers – By Sabshina
After many years, Afghan women have for the first time been able to take part in prayers on the occasion of Eid-e-Qorban [Feast of Sacrifice, marking the end of the Hajj pilgrimage] in Kabul. The prayers at Kabul’s district of Tahieh Maskan were attended by more than 15 women, including the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Qamar Wakili-Achikzai, the General Manager of the Orphanage, Suraya Hakam-Yaftali. The faithful women took their places in the last row of the congregation and performed the Eid-e-Qorban prayers along with their bothers.
Such a service had been unprecedented in our country. Women in other Moslem countries have for a very long time been taking part in the [mass performance] of the five daily prayers and the prayers of the two Eids [Eid-e-Qorban and Eid-e-Fitr that marks the end of the Moslem fasting month of Ramadhan], but this had been unprecedented in Afghanistan.
The General Manager of the Orphanage [Suraya Hakam-Yaftali] said: “Women can take part in the five daily prayers along with their brethren, staying in the back row. Praying is a duty for Moslems and praying in congregation will lead to more divine rewards.”
Asked why she had chosen to join her brethren in performing the Eid-e-Qorban prayers, Qamar Wakili-Achikzai said: “Just as women join their brethren in social, political and economic activities, they can also perform their religious duties freely, under one roof, as has been prescribed in hadith [the accounts of Prophet Mohammad’s deeds].
“As a social affairs manager, I am responsible for nurseries and kindergartens and this heavy responsibility leads me to provide the nation’s children with maternal affection and love and share their happiness as well as their sorrows. I therefore wanted to spend the first day of the Eid at the nursery and perform the Eid prayers among them, in the row behind the Moslem brethren, in God’s House, and to thank God Almighty for the blessings that have been bestowed on Afghanistan after the miseries [it suffered] …
‘I had planned to deliver [President] Karzai’s message and my own maternal words to the children in the nursery’s mosque, but because the mosque was packed with people performing their prayers, I had to read Mr Karzai’s message for the children in the nursery’s courtyard.
“I deposited the President’s Eid-e-Qorban present to the nursery children in the Pashtani Commercial Bank. In future too any [cash] presents given to the children would be deposited in their bank accounts to provide them with a capital in the future.
“I had also planned to have lunch with the nursery children, but since under Islamic laws it is forbidden to avail oneself of the orphans’ property, I could not bring myself to eat what rightfully belonged to the orphans.”
Seerat: Women’s literacy rate is low in Baghlan Province – By Najiba Zahab
Baghlan Province’s Women’s Council has been able to provide widows with opportunities for work. The head of the Council, Nafas Jaheed, says: “In addition to working in productive firms, widows also work on sewing with hand or machine and beadworks, with the support of foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs).”
20% of the women are on literacy courses. Jamila, one of the students, says: “In the past I could not tell black from white, but now I am happy because I can read the headlines of newspapers very well and read their texts in full.”
Shokria Aseel, a producer with Baghlan Television, says: “Baghlan Television used to be on air from 4pm to 10pm and we had 11 programmes on it. I myself used to produce three programmes: [the quiz show] Intellectual Challenge, A Window Towards the Sun, and Woman and Society. Unfortunately, weak management has led to a reduction of air time to 3 hours and women’s broadcasts have also been cut down.
“Women in Baghlan are active in the province’s political, cultural and social life. We have women poets and writers and I myself write plays and novels. Recently, I was asked by the province’s Department of Information and Culture to produce a film called Roya [Dream], with a screenplay that I myself have written. We have a special programme called Didgahha [Perspectives] that deals with women’s problems, such as forced marriages and family disputes.
“Women who are involved in cultural work in places such as the Teacher Training University go to work wearing the chadari [burqa’], but this is not compulsory. It’s just that the environment is such that they themselves want to appear wearing the full hijab.”
Commenting on the reduction of airtime, the head of Baghlan Television, Naqiobllah Soltani, said: “Work must be performed by competent people and television staff must be encouraged for the work they do. Since there is no encouragement, programmes are cut back automatically. It is up the authorities to pay more attention to improving the social environment and working conditions in the province, especially for women and youth, and make it possible for them to be more active.”
Commenting on the basic problems faced by women and girls in Baghlan, [Mr Soltani] said: “Literacy rates among women and girls in Baghlan are very low because many families do not allow their daughters to go to school. Furthermore, in some villages there are practices such as forced marriage that cause many problems. We must stop the spread of such practices and make the parents understand the consequences. We have done some work in this area, but will not be satisfied before we see our people driving away bad customs and practices.”
Commenting on maternal mortality in Baghlan Province, Nafas Jaheed said: “I must say that our Department of Women’s Affairs has not dealt with the problem of maternal and infant mortality. However, we did start a comprehensive campaign, supported by UNICEF and the Swedish Committee, and women have been told about new family planning and healthy delivery methods. We hope that in future we will be able to prevent the deaths of mothers and infants in the province.”
Seerat: [Queen] Gauharshad Begum’s valuable share in creating modern schools – By Benazir Hutaki
In Hirat, during the Timurid era, Guaharshad Begum, the wife of King Shahrokh, was considered a patron of the artists and literary figures at her husband’s court. She tried to promote universal education so that women as well as men could go to school. In spite of her efforts, however, she was not able to promote women’s education on a great scale because women were prevented from becoming literate and educated.
The great writer of the Timurid era, Jalal al-Din Dawani [1426-1502], has a book called [Akhlaq-e Jalali (Jalalean Ethics)] in which he has this to say about women: “A woman must obey her husband in all affairs. When the husband says his wife should not study, the woman must respect his view.”
It can be inferred from Mr Dawani’s writing that Gauharshad Begum had been fighting against this irrational view and had been paving the way for women to go to school. That’s why this great and renowned woman established grand madrasas [schools] in the Timurid domain … She established a school in Hirat that was named after her. The school was built in [the 15th century] and its ruins still remain in northwest Hirat.
Gawharshad endowed plenty of land and many orchards, mills and shops to provide revenue for the maintenance of the school …
Anis daily: Police training in Mazar-e-Sharif
Police training has begun in Mazar-e-Sharif with a two-week course for officers. The programme incorporates international standards of policing, with a heavy emphasis on human rights, gender, police ethics, proactive policing, and community policing.
The two-week course will be held repeatedly until the opening of a permanent police academy in late spring, when the full 48-day police-training course for new recruits is scheduled to commence. Qualified Afghan police and American and United Kingdom experts from the Mazar-based PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team] are providing the training. One of the priorities identified as a prerequisite for stability in the north is the establishment of a professional and neutral police force. The current training programme is a concrete step in that direction.
The course is a part of the Transition Integration Program (TIP), which is led and funded by the United States with the participation of United Kingdom and experts from other countries under the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INLE) Programme. This effort complements the training of new recruits at the Kabul Police Academy by Germany, the lead nation assisting in the reform of the Afghan police.
Anis: Kidnapper arrested
Sayed-Akbar who had kidnapped two children, Abdollah and Ahmad-Zia, a week ago in [Kabul’s] 7th district and transferred them to the [southern] border province of Kandahar, has been arrested by officers and the children have been handed back to their parents.