The Afghanistan presidential elections take place today, 5th of April 2014; and Pangea Foundation of Italy with the Afghan staff, in the last two weeks interviewed 100 women in Kabul in order to understand how they are viewing and experiencing this important political event, if they are going to vote, and what expectations they have concerning their personal future, for Afghan women, and for their country. All women respondents are taking part in the microcredit project called ” Jamila ”
Pangea staff offers from this research, a lens that is limited but important, insight into Afghan women’s voices and feeling about the election, but neither to be the mirror of what is happening in all the country.
Pangea, which is engaged since 2003 on multiple women’s activities in Afghanistan, in giving concrete help to women and to country reconstruction, wanted to verify if the job on field and our women rights awareness and female empowerment have contributed in some measure to increase the willingness of Afghan women to participate and including in the highly significant electoral process.
The survey is composed by 22 questions aimed at women from 18 years old to 50 years, all of them participated in our project since two or three years. 92 of them are married, and all women live in Kabul.
We asked whether and how they came familiar with the presidential elections , if they know the candidate’s programs and how will express their preference; if they will have the ability to express their vote freely. We asked them regarding social and political priorities that should have to be faced and implemented by new president, and, finally, we asked them an opinion about the future of Afghanistan.
All the respondents (98) told us they were generally informed about the elections, and with a strong awareness of the importance of going to vote . 90% of them plan to vote, while only 2% are uncertain because they are afraid to do it for personal safety.
72 of them are already in possession of the electoral card and showed us a remarkable sensitivity about what are going to happen on the 5th of April (Afghanistan Election Day), and they show a strong desire to bring some relevant social change through the ballot box.
In this scenario, the mass media plays a crucial role: 83 of respondents have been informed about presidential elections and candidates through television and radio. This is another important sign of change in the Afghan society, as it shows the desire to build a national dialogue and with attention of the world.
This is somehow the antithesis of the Taliban period with its extreme cultural isolation, with the prohibition for all Afghan population to keep informed by media.
91 of interviewed Afghan women know who are the election candidates, and they will not vote only on the basis of ethnicity . In fact, 75 of them claim they will vote on the issues of candidate programs. The possibility that family members, men in particular, might influence their vote does not seem to concern most of the women interviewed. 73 respondents declare not to undergo such pressure and that they are going to vote freely, independently of influences of their husbands, fathers or brothers. A dozen of the women, however, will follow family suggestion. This is an important and positive signal for Pangea; the proof of the relevance of our work in transmitting to women more self-confidence and awareness about their own rights.
In the end, the questions is: Is this election able to change anything? According to 94 of the respondents, it WILL. They perceive lots of confidence and optimism for the future of Afghanistan. It is evident that there is a strong desire to change many things, perhaps due to the fact that now, after years, the population itself, starting with the women, feel the necessity to rewrite their own history in peace.
Regarding our last question: “What are the most urgent issues to be addressed for the country by the future President of Afghanistan ? ” 60 women said that unemployment is the most urgent thing to solve, 46 said security, 15 the condition of women, 7 corruption, 7 food security, 4 education and 1 woman the withdrawal of troops.
Everyone should draw their own conclusions based on the answers. Pangea with the Jamila Project responds to the first priority, to solve the unemployment thanks to microcredit. In fact, it creates jobs for women and their families, but fortunately Pangea will not participate as voters in Afghanistan elections!
Written by Simona Lanzoni, Vice President of Fondazione Pangea in collaboration with Barbara Gallo activist and specialist on Afghanistan.
This article was first written in Italian (now translated into English) by Fondazione Pangea Onlus of Italy which has been in a strong partnership with Afghan women for years, and has experienced their realities on site in Afghanistan, as well as having been with them in Italy and at the UN. It is a tightly bonded, and trusted relationship, across borders, traditions, religions, language, customs; and an example of the possibilities of women bonding and building together.