Security has always been a concern since the fall of the Taliban. This recommendation has been repeated many times. But the government should come up with the mechanisms to ensure security. They say women are free. But they cannot just say they give rights to women, they have to ensure it. They have to make the environment safe and secure.
─Woman election worker, Kabul, August 10, 2005
The Taliban stripped women and girls of their most basic rights. Banished completely from public life, the slightest infraction could result in arrest or beatings. With the fall of that regime at the end of 2001, it seemed such nightmares were a thing of the past. But the pressures on women today are sometimes nearly as severe.
Hundreds of women have chosen to brave risks to their personal safety in order to have a voice in the countrys emerging political institutions. The Afghan government, domestic and international election observers, and the international community must work together to support Afghan womens political participation.
Four years ago, the United States, Britain, and their allies pledged to support Afghan women in their struggle to reclaim their rights after the fall of the Taliban, and to provide a supportive environment for them to do so. In 2005, while Afghan womens rights are in one sense on the agenda of the international communitywitness the often stirring rhetoric of world leaders and well-intentioned programs targeting womenkey international actors have done little to create the conditions necessary for a genuine flowering of womens rights in the country. An expansion of NATO-led peacekeeping troops throughout the country and renewed efforts at disarmament could help transform it from the rule of the gun to the rule of law. Instead, Afghanistan remains one of the most poorly funded conflict zones in the world.
Prompt action by Afghan and international actors in the next month can foster a more secure environment so that women candidates may campaign with greater confidence. The ECC should find ways to facilitate the submission of official complaints, especially from candidates in rural areas that are far from Provincial Election Centers (PECs). The ECC should respond to such complaints immediately and communicate the actions being taken to complainants. Local and international security forces should coordinate regular meetings directly with candidates, election staff, and human rights workers at the local level, and provide emergency mobile phone numbers to candidates.
Additional steps should be taken to support the new parliament and Provincial Councils when they begin their work. This includes training for new government officials and security for officials who face threats and intimidation, particularly women elected to the Provincial Councils who may be at extra risk of such problems.