Briefing sheet – Women & Election Issues in 2010
by: IEC Gender Unit
The IEC fully supports the realization of the Constitution and of Afghanistan’s international legal obligations so that women as well as men may fully participate in all areas of political life including as staff and commissioners, as candidates, as agents and as voters.
Actions by the IEC to realize gender equality
-The IEC has supported the development of a Gender Unit at HQ to assist with policy, planning, information, analysis, training and outreach. This unit will be included in the organizational chart (tashkeel) that will be submitted for governmental approval at the end of 2010, so that the Unit may eventually become a permanent part of the IEC funded through the national budget.
-The IEC has appointed one person in each provincial office to act as a Gender Focal Point (GFP). These persons are permanent members of staff and undertake their GFP work in addition to their regular responsibilities. They liaise with local stakeholders active on women’s participation, and ensure that information specific on women and elections is communicated to relevant actors. They are responsible for ensuring that other parts of work of IEC such as public outreach and training take gender into account.
-The IEC has supported gender training for Commissioners, female staff at HQ, and gender focal points. This training has introduced basic concepts, improved skills and informed staff about women’s roles in commissions and in political life. More training including in gender budgeting, gender mainstreaming and gender and management is planned for fall 2010 and spring 2011.
-The IEC aims always to provide gender disaggregated data such as relates to elections turnout, candidates, and staffing. • The IEC has coordinated Gender & Elections meetings both for national and international stakeholders, where information is shared and queries addressed. After the elections a “lessons learnt women and elections 2010” workshop will be hosted. • The IEC has made special efforts to try and achieve maximum employment of women in head quarters, in provincial offices, and as temporary election staff for public outreach and polling centers. In 2010 we have 62% male civic educators, 31% female civic educators and 7% Kuchi educators. 75.23% of district field coordinators are male, 18.94% are female, and 5.83% are Kuchi. There are two female commissioners out of a total of seven. There is one female director of a department out of a total of five.
Gender and Security
Provision of security is the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior (MoI). The IEC however recognizes that gender sensitive security planning is very important in particular to enable female staff, candidates and voters to feel safe when participating in political life. The IEC Gender Unit, senior management and commissioners have therefore been actively liaising with the MoI and their Gender Unit to support them in identifying problems before, during and after polling day. Particular problems that have been identified include: lack of female police for polling day, security of female candidates during campaigning, lack of comprehensive gender disaggregated threat and attack data.
-Gender sensitive security plans for polling day: As threats or attacks on female polling stations also have the likelihood of affecting the adjacent areas (the ‘male’ polling stations) it is vital that Afghan police have clear instructions on how to act in the case of a perceived threat from a woman or a burqa-clad man. The IEC GU has been urging the MoI to ensure that plans do make clear what male police actions should be. Female body searchers will provide security confidence, but as they are not trained police, taking any actions in case of a threat is outside their purview.
-Female body searchers for polling stations: The IEC has been flagging this issue since 2009. It is vital that voters can be checked in case of carrying weapons or other items that could be used to harm others. It is not culturally acceptable for men to check women except in extreme cases. Due to the lack of female police to take this role, the IEC and UNDP ELECT have been negotiating with the Afghan Government to find solutions. Roles and responsibilities and payment modalities are now agreed; donors will fund through UNDP ELECT, payments will go to provincial governors who will also be responsible for recruitment, and the MoI will be responsible for planning and placement of female body searchers on polling day. There are a total of 5897 female polling centers and 2 women are needed for each.
-Security of female candidates: Female candidates report that their ability to campaign is very limited. In particular there are some provinces where women do not feel safe to campaign, or to put posters with photos up. In other places posters of female candidates are being rapidly torn down or defaced. Some candidates have received direct telephone or letter threats. Adequate responses by security actors to these threats have not always been forthcoming, and female candidates have informed the IEC that they are often being forced to stay at home and not campaign due to fear. In particular reports from provincial election commission offices (PECs) in the following provinces highlight security problems for women candidates: Faryab, Kunar, Urozgan, Zabul, Helmand, Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Herat.
-Nature of threats against women: Threats seem to be from family members who are afraid if the women campaign, or from male candidates and ostensibly religious figures. For example in some provinces messages from mosques have focused on the inaccurate notion that it is not Islamic for women to be involved in political life in any capacity. The speakers attempt to deter men from allowing their female family members to be involved in elections in any way including as voters, candidates or IEC staff. Some male candidates appear to be motivated to deter women from campaigning so they will reduce their number of votes, and therefore these will be received by the men instead. In one case the husband of a female candidate has been killed as a deterrent.
-Gender sensitive mapping of threats and attacks: Many different agencies and institutions in Afghanistan receive and hold information about threats and attacks on candidates and IEC staff and voters. For example women might log complaints with AIHRC (the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission), local NGOs, international Agencies, ISAF or PRTs, national security actors, observer missions, FEFA, UN agencies, local offices of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (DoWAs) as well as with PECs. To date no collated data is available that can give a good comparative overview of the security climate for female and male candidates.
Female empty seats
The 25% quota for women in Parliament has been positively received by female politicians and women’s groups, as it helps slightly flatten a very unequal playing field. However the current law is ambiguous and does not make crystal clear if, in cases of no female candidate after elections, the seat can be taken by a man or not. The international Legal Advisor to IEC believes that some kind of written interpretation is necessary to ensure that the women’s seats are not eaten away, and the Commissioners and the CEO have made strong affirmations that they agree that female seats must be protected. It has also been publicly stated that the Afghan President will issue a decree outlining this position. 4. Gender different impacts of election procedures and rules Resignation letters: The law requires that civil servants (those working in hospitals, ministries, commissions etc) are required to submit their approved resignation letter when they candidate themselves. While this provision is necessary to mitigate misuse of state resources and influence, the IEC understands that the impact of this provision on men and women differ. In many places women predominantly work in government, so this rule has a negative effect particularly outside of Kabul. In addition, the decision to resign would not be automatically followed by reinstatement should the candidate not be successful in the elections. Cases were heard of candidates being bullied and played with so they did not get their letters on time. This led to disqualifications in some cases. Financial and other support: Women do not tend to be part of political networks, or have access to funds. Therefore they tend to be very dependent on immediate family for campaign expenses. The increase in fee for candidates registering acted as a deterrent to many women who do not have access or control over their own financial resources. The numbers of supporters required for them to register also acted as a disincentive. There is a law that forbids international financial support to candidates however the IEC makes exceptions for any activity that is undertaken for all of a wide group of candidates. So for example female candidates have received training, and some agencies have supported all women to print their posters and visit cards. In addition plans had been made to pay for media slots for female candidates, in order to address their problems with campaigning. Unfortunately for 2010 some of these initiatives had to be canceled or were delayed too long, and as a result their utility was diminished. Election timetable: Most women face mobility constraints, they are not free to travel without male guardians, and usually have to be in the home by dark. They also face constraints on their time use, as obligations in the home such as cooking and child-care, are usually non-negotiable. The IEC is aware that organizational and elections planning cannot assume women’s participation. In 2010 the later part of the campaign period unfortunately fell in Ramadan, this restricted women’s mobility as most have to taking care of shopping and preparation for Iftar (the evening meal that breaks the fast). While the election date was based in part on unavoidable operational constraints, the IEC recognizes that it meant both that female candidates had less time to campaign than men, and that female staff at the IEC, PECs and other institutions had less time to work. The date of the Parliamentary elections falls just inside the time when women start to make their Eid visits, which are later than men’s. In addition as there are few weddings and engagements and other parties during Ramadan, many women missed out on one of the few fora they have in which to campaign. In part to mitigate the effect of these constraints, the IEC extended the campaign period compared to previous elections.
September 9th, 2010.
IEC Gender Unit, Jalalabad Road, Kabul
PDF : One Step forward, Two Steps Back? – Lessons Learnt from Women’s Participation in the 2009 Afghan Elections
PDF : Report on Women Political Participation in Afghanistan (WCLRF: 2005)
PDF : Declaration of Substantive Principles on Women and Youth Meaningful Participation in Election (FEFA: 2016)
PDF : Proposed Proposal of Women Political Rights Advocacy Group on Electoral Reform to Government and Electoral Reform Commission (FEFA: 2015)
PDF : Verification of Political Rights: Focusing on Women Participants (Provincial Councils Candidates Nomination Process 2014) (FEFA: 2013)
Link : Quota Project: quota for woman representatives in House of People, House of Elders, and at sub-national level
Link : Hope and Fears as Afghan Women head to the polls (Vice News: April 5, 2014)
Link : As Election Nears in Afghanistan, Women’s Political Participation Is Critical- Asia Foundation (September 18, 2013)
Link : Women Participation in Politics: A Case Study of Afghan Women (Journal of Public Administration and Governance, 2014)