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Elections in Afghanistan: What’s at Stake for Women

March 5, 2014
By Sara Van Wie
The elections will prove a critical test of the nation’s commitment to preserve the recently secured rights and freedoms of Afghan women

With Afghanistan’s presidential and provincial elections just one month away, hopes for free and fair elections depend heavily on the full inclusion of women in the ongoing political process.    Afghanistan’s future may rest on the peaceful transition of political power, but the April 5th elections will also prove a critical test of the nation’s commitment to preserve the more recently secured rights and freedoms of Afghan women, rights some fear are already being eroded and rolled back.

While preparations to secure polling stations are underway, threats against Afghan women at the polls have gone unchecked. Time is running short to make significant progress in the securing of polling stations, which could dramatically limit the opportunity for females to vote.    Media, civil society, and non‐ governmental groups are working to counter challenges by engaging women to boost voter turnout, but concerns mount that a shortage of female security staff at the polling stations could limit participation by women.

In this historic election that will mark the first peaceful transfer from one democratically‐elected Afghan government to another, serious threats loom for Afghan women whose names appear on the ballot.   Women running for office continue to face attacks, kidnappings, and death threats against themselves and their families.  With the stakes high, the Afghan Women’s Project is urging the Afghan government and its international partners to ensure the voices of Afghan women will be heard.   To achieve a successful outcome in the 2014 elections, the participation and protection of Afghan women at the polls and on the ballot must remain a top priority.