A record number of women are running for the Afghan parliamentary elections, including an Olympic sprinter and women’s rights advocates. But many hurdles lie along their emerging political tracks.
In her signature green veil, modest yet trendy Iranian-style suits complete with high-heel shoes, Robina Jalali has added a dash of celebrity to the Afghan parliamentary elections.
2010 ELECTIONS IN FIGURES
- Second parliamentary elections since 2001
- 249 seats in wolesi jirga or lower house
- More than 2,500 candidates
- 68 seats reserved for women
- More than 10.5 million eligible voters
- Total 6,835 polling centers in final list
- More than 1,000 expected not to open due to security concerns
Her story is an Afghan fairytale: She was the only Afghan female athlete to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and though she finished last, the image of Jalali sprinting in track-pants and a veil captured international attention.
And women are at the centre of another major concern for election observers: electoral fraud.
“In conservative areas very few females vote. Observers, if they are there, typically report back that turnout was low and all the voters were men. Often when the results come in later, suddenly a high proportion of the total votes are female votes,” said Martine van Bijlert of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network, before adding, “Having a high proportion of female votes in an insecure or conservative areas is a huge red flag.”
Female votes are particularly susceptible to proxy voting. Male voters often manage to compel electoral staff to allow them to vote in place of their womenfolk.
Their lot has undoubtedly improved. Female employment and literacy rates are climbing and more women are participating in the political process, to name just a few indicators.
Still, she says she put up a good fight. “I did my best especially on articles on women’s rights,” she said. “I was not always successful, I was not always treated well by the men, but I was strong enough to deliver my message whatever it was.”
Date created : 2010-09-17