The presence and role of women in the public sphere and political activities
Updated : 13 March 2012
KABUL, 7 March 2012
The AIHRC will complete and publish its second research report on the basic rights of women "The presence and role of women in the public sphere and political activities"
The first report of this type “The situation of working women” was published in 1388 in which the level of women’s participation in national and public organs was comprehensively reviewed and specific recommendations to achieve the goals committed in the NDS was presented to the government and the international community.
In the second report in addition to assessing of the presence of women in national and state organs both in terms of quality and quantity, opportunities for women's access to political rights and their presence and role in civil society institutions, was also reviewed, and the activities performed in the area of women's political rights was investigated.
Information collected in this report was based on library and field monitoring activates. Interviews were made and statistics were collected by Commission’s monitoring team all over the country to complete the preliminary data collection for this report.
Assessment criteria for this report was based on the national laws including the Constitution and ordinary laws, Afghanistan National Strategy and the international human rights documents, especially documents to which Afghanistan government is a signatory.
A Brief Overview of the presence and role of women in public and political activities
Discrimination between men and women is considered to be one important characteristic of traditional societies, that the duration of which is guaranteed by the unchangeable laws and traditions, and women in the society continue to be treated as second-class.
This caused women rights and social movements activists to start a persisting struggle 150 years ago and continue till today. Still discrimination exists and many communities are having a traditional and patriarchal culture like Afghanistan, in which women are placed in lower positions than men and are faced with various types of violence and discrimination.
As we know women in our country continue to be victims of discrimination, violence and be deprived of their rights, receiving less chance of being able to create a social movement and achieve the equal positions with men in their public life, and eliminate discrimination and violence against them.
The fall of the Taliban in 2001 was one of the most important opportunities for women in the country in which women could enter political and social activities with a better alignment and obtain a relatively better position in the community.
Women’s struggle to ensure their basic rights and eliminate discrimination, gained some better opportunities in this period and with the support from the new government and the international community these rights were enshrined in the new Constitution and the other laws were also outlined to support women's fundamental rights, like Election Law and the Law on Violence against Women.
During this period, presence of women in public offices and civil institutions and strengthening of their role in major positions in the country has been one of the main demands of women, which, unfortunately, in addition to the previously mentioned legal achievements, women still face many difficulties and challenges.
Presence of Women in Public Offices
Based on the National Development Strategy, the government is obliged to increase the presence of women in both qualitative and quantitative terms to 30% in all spheres of life by 2020. The Census Bureau statistic available in Almanac 1389 shows that 82% of the state employees are men and 18% are women, however, the statistic in 1388 indicated the presence of women as 20%. This figure was reported in 2006 as 31%.
This figure shows that the presence and role of women in the public offices has declined and the arena will be getting tighter for them over time. And the government not only in the community level but in its administrative structure has failed to meet its obligations in the context of gender-based equalities. It is worth mentioning that presence of women in public office in the center is relatively better (27%), but this figure unfortunately drops to 15% in the provinces.
The presence of women in terms of quality in the state organs is not very promising either. Out of 241 state employees with a PhD, only 13 of them, 5.4 % are women. In MA and BA degrees levels, this ratio is 9.2% for women and 90.8 for men. In BA and baccalaureate degree levels this proportion is respectively reported as 25.9% and 22.3% for women and 74.1% and 77.7% for men.
Based on a roughly estimated figure, presence of women at major decision making level is very low and only 8% of the decisions are taken by women throughout the country. The presence of women in the high ranks of 2, 1 and above it is only 10%.
Women Access to Political Right in Afghanistan
Political rights and women’s access to them is one of the main challenges in the social life in the country, and traditional beliefs prevailing in the society continue to deny women’s participation in political affairs and decision making activities. According to this tradition, the women should be subordinate to men in all their activities. As the most recent declaration by the National Council of Ulema states: “In human creation, man is the principle and woman is the corollary… a woman should not travel without a close relative (legal Mahram). Women should avoid being together with men in any public places such as classes, bazaars, offices and other social gatherings, however, the political rights of women is clearly stated in article 33 and 35 of the Constitutions.
It must be acknowledged that the presence of women in civic activities has left a very good result. However, public mentality and the present authorities still believe that presence of women in political activities is not good.
A comparative assessment of women participation in the past elections shows that during the first Presidential Elections in 1383, 41.5 % of the voters were women. One year later, during parliamentary elections this figure reached to 44% and during the second Parliamentary Elections in 1389 the figure decreased to 39 %, slightly lower than pervious years.
Full and active participation of women in two rounds of Parliamentary Elections resulted in 27% women members in the parliament (68 seats out of 249 seats), and 22.5% of the senate members (23 seats out of 102 seats), and in the second round 69 members of the parliament were women, though one more seat was reserved to women during this parliamentary election.
It should be mentioned that only 12 women came to the parliament through competition with men, without using of 25% quota dedicated for women. During the last parliamentary election 29 women came to parliament through competition with men.
Presence and Role of women in the Civil Society Institutions
With the fall of the Taliban regime and establishment of the interim government in 2001, the process of civil society institutions formation was started and still continues. Based on the discussions between the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and a number of these institutions, around 26% of them before 2002, 29.5% of them between the years 2002 and 2005 and almost 28% of them between the years 2006 and 2009 and another 13% of them were established after the year 2010.
Although the exact number of women working in these institutions is not available, according to the statement by Naim Nazari, Coordinator of Civil Society Organizations, about 30 % of the Civil Society activists are women. It should be mentioned that women in insecure and remote provinces are faced with numerous restrictions to participate in civil society activities.
Assessment of Activities in the Area of Women Political Rights
Given to many and various problems as well as women social exclusion, activities in the areas of their political rights have been only a small part of the work performed for women. These activities have been very scattered, limited and not coordinated. 72% of these activities have been allocated to holding training workshops, seminars, and conferences on political rights of women. In addition other activities such as dissemination, publishing of posters and pamphlets, technical and financial support for promotion of women political right have also been included.
It should be mentioned that most of these programs were focused in the cities and secure areas, but the women in remote and rural areas had little access to such programs.
For this reason, most of the women in those areas encounter with problems such as family voting, voting by men rather than women, , inability to accurately select the desired candidate, inability to vote properly, proxy voting ( including election staff and representatives of the candidates) in favor of certain candidates.
- Government and government organs should pay attention and adhere to its commitments made in the Afghan National Development Strategy in eliminating gender disparities in government offices
- Increasing of women’s participation in decision making level in the government organs
- Establishing of gender units in government structure and strengthening of its role in leadership and decision-making in the ministries and government organs
- Improving of women’s educational capacity and more attention to their education in of higher educational institutes
- Developing long-term strategic plans in the field of women's rights and especially women's political rights
- Supporting and strengthening the role of civil society, particularly women's rights organizations, and to avoid political confrontation by government officials
- Coordinating between civil institutions and launching of joint and coordinated activities, and support each other's programs at provincial and district levels
- Paying attention to the quality of educational programs in the field of women's political rights
- Expanding of training and awareness raising programs from the centers to district level and remote areas.