KABUL: For women in Afghanistan’s Parliament, what a difference a year makes.
Last December, the government proposed 12 candidates for ministerial positions; only one was female, and she failed to win enough votes.
Now hundreds of women aim to be agents of change by standing for Parliament in elections on Saturday.
More than 400 of the 2,691 candidates are women. Their aims are to encourage a consensus among female members of Parliament and to end the reliance on factional leaders and strongmen with power and wealth.
“The young and new candidates are a powerful tool to make Parliament exercise its rights as stipulated in the constitution,” said Zahra Nawabi, 28, a candidate from Kabul who has two master’s degrees.
“Our priority should be women, first and foremost addressing their health. Parliament should not become a source of shame for the nation.”
The practice of wealthy figures and men with power supporting their own choice of female nominees was a greater threat to Afghan democracy than the threatened attacks on the election process by Taliban insurgents, she said.
“The government needs to intervene to stop this, otherwise the next Parliament could be worse than the current one.”
Shinkay Karokhail, who was elected as an MP in 2005, was re-elected in 2010 and is standing again, admitted that female MPs had failed to form a powerful bloc in Parliament. Some of them regarded themselves “as extra-ordinary,” she said, and it was too early to say whether any of the new batch of candidates would be an improvement.