Afghan President appoints second female governor

 President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan appointed a second woman as a provincial governor on Sunday ( 28 June 2015) , something that was welcomed by reform-minded activists even though his first appointee has been unable to take office because of fierce opposition and protests.

Already, there are signs that the second female governor, Seema Joyenda, who is to serve in Ghor Province in central Afghanistan, one of the poorest places in the country, will face many of the same challenges.

Ms. Joyenda, 43, a former member of Parliament and a mother of nine, said she was well positioned to lead the province. “This is not new to me,” she said. “As their former representative, I traveled the province, I know my people’s pain.”

Yet residents and elders in Ghor, a tribal society with Taliban influences as well as hundreds of militias loyal to local strongmen, expressed misgivings.

“I don’t believe the appointment of a female governor will be effective for Ghor,” said Abdul Basir Qaderi, a local elder. “This is a traditional society, and it is an insecure province facing enemy threats. A female governor will struggle to lead military and security meetings.”

Mohamad Mahdawi, a provincial council member, said he was not optimistic: “The situation here is fragile, and a woman cannot have an active military position in suppressing the enemy.”

As this debate unfolded, Masooma Muradi, whom Mr. Ghani appointed as governor of Daikundi Province, has been stranded in Kabul, with protesters linked to a strongman in Daikundi holding sit-ins to keep her from office.

One of Mr. Ghani’s chief aims has been to increase the representation of women in his government. He has appointed three female cabinet ministers and a female Supreme Court justice, and promised to appoint more women as governors and ambassadors.

Many see that as a slight shift from the administration of his predecessor, President Hamid Karzai, who appointed one female governor, Habiba Sarabi.

“The commitment of the current government is better,” said Ms. Sarabi, who now advises Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, who shares power with Mr. Ghani.

The two men “have promised to appoint three female governors,” Ms. Sarabi said. “But the selection needs to be very careful, as we women are vulnerable.”

Ms. Joyenda lamented that her appointment came at a time when international aid had diminished and the “government is struggling economically.” Meeting the needs of people in a deprived province like Ghor, with a literacy rate of about 21 percent, will be difficult, she said.

“I do wish I had been appointed to a province that, if it had security problems, it would be better on the development front, and that if it had development problems, it would be better on the social front,” she said. “Ghor, unfortunately, has problems in all those areas. But we will adjust to the reality; we will try to be transparent with the little we get and make sure everyone feels a part of the government.”

Governors, who control all civilian and military activities in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, have substantial authority and patronage, at least on paper. Yet in a country where institutions often take a back seat to warlords and strongmen, a governor is required to maneuver among clashing local forces. What is happening over Ms. Muradi’s appointment is an example of that. Provincial strongmen and political leaders in Kabul want one of their allies to become governor.

There have been similar protests against the appointment of a new governor for Bamian Province, a man, suggesting that Ms. Muradi has been as much a victim of clashing political interests as of sexism.

“The ordinary people of Daikundi are happy with the central government’s decision to appoint a female governor, and they fully support the decision,” said Haji Ghairat Jawaheri, a member of the provincial council in Daikundi. “However, there are a series of issues relating to political leaders here that is stopping her.”

A senior official in Kabul said negotiations with various factions in the provinces were continuing. “The government will not backtrack from its decision, as it will set a wrong precedent,” added the official, who asked not to be named to avoid angering the parties involved in the talks.

Mr. Jawaheri said that nearly 100 activists went to the Daikundi police chief on Sunday and asked him to disperse the protests so Ms. Muradi could take office. Then, they appealed to the demonstrators, saying, “Let her hold the position to prove that she is able to bring changes in Daikundi,” suggesting that if she failed they could then stand against her, Mr. Jawaheri said.

“But the protesters did not give us any positive response. They invited us to join in their protest,” he said.

New York Times article by  MUJIB MASHAL and AHMAD SHAKIB- 28/06/2015

See original article HERE.