HERAT CITY (Pajhwok): A number of women rights activist and female Wolesi Jirga hopefuls in western Herat province fear inadequate security may deprive them of exercising right to vote.
Herat province, situated in the western zone of the country, has a population of more than 1.9 million people. Behind Kabul, it has the second largest number of representatives in the Wolesi Jirga.
Based on its population, the province has been allocated 17 seats, including five for women, in the lower house of parliament.
The provincial Independent Election Commission office says 161 candidates, including 28 women, are in the run for the Wolesi Jirga polls. More than 550,000 voters -- 247,000 of them women -- have been registered across the province.
Ahmad Shah Qanuni, the IEC head for Herat, told Pajhwok Afghan News women’s participation helped boost in the election transparency and made it a national process.
He acknowledged security threats and denial of women’s participation by some families in the elections was as a huge challenge. Facilities are under consideration for women on the polling day.
In the previous elections, he recalled, two polling centers existed in each station. But in the upcoming elections, three centers will be set up for men and as many for women. Policewomen would be tasked with protecting females.
Qanuni admitted Kashk-i-Kohna, Rabat-i-Sangi, Zawal, Pushtkoh, Farsi and Adarskan districts were facing security threats. Polling stations in these districts stay shut, he indicated.
According to him, there are 461 polling stations in Herat but the exact number will be determined after an assessment by security institutions.
Wahida Samadi Qalam, a female activist, told Pajhwok adherence to old traditions in most remote areas had led to depriving women of exercising their right to vote.
She also cited the need for public awareness about women’s rights and participation in elections. “I suggest a peaceful environment be considered and serious measures taken to motivate women to cast their votes.” he added.
People should be assured with the creation of polling centers that there would be no security threat and they could cast votes in a peaceful environment, she suggested.
Concerned at some powerful individuals trying to keep female candidates out of the scene, she believed the government should take concrete steps to address security challenges. involvement of some candidates’ supporters in polling before the Election Day, she grumbled.
Mullah Alvi, another activist, asked the IEC to create polling station close to residential areas and hire female workers as well. The commission should consider transportation facility for voters.
Another female activist, Yasmin Azizi, also listed security threats as a major challenge to women voters. She urged security organs to take serious steps to protect them on the election day.
She asked religious scholars to discuss the participation of women in the elections in Friday sermons to convince the Taliban into letting the other half cast their votes.
Sherin Shahabi, a female hopeful for Wolesi Jirga, also called security threats a huge challenge, especially for women voters. She expressed concern that women might not exercise their right to vote if the situation continued.
She stressed the need for women’s wider participation in the October elections. However, she complained measures had not been taken for the prevention of crowding in the city and the remote location of polling stations.
Lida, a resident of Herat, said: “I think the government has not yet taken any action for women’s facilitation. Therefore, polling stations should be created close to residential areas.”
Yagana, a resident of Herat, held a similar view about the challenges and security threats to women voters. She called on the government to establish polling centres in the where only women are present.
Meanwhile, another female candidate Susan Behboodzada, grumbled the government had not yet provided any facilities for women.
Police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizad said the security forces would be stationed around polling stations in all parts of the city and districts to make sure the democratic process was conducted without any hitch.
However, Defence Ministry spokesman Ghafoor Javed recently told a press conference in Kabul the Afghan security forces were taking preventive measures to ensure election security.
“We assure the people that security will be fully ensured for implementing the national process and the Afghans can participate in the elections without any fear,” he concluded.


Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.