Women’s political participation in Afghanistan:
An agenda for Afghan women’s empowerment
“As a global trend, rising number of women in politics will indicate that human beings are making progress towards a more humane world-not because women are necessarily more humane than men, but because any society that categorically excludes half of its members from the process by which it rules itself will be ruled in a way that is less than fully human” Kathlene
The world over women are struggling to break the shackles that bind them challenging the unequal distribution of power in society. Transforming the existing in egalitarian pattern of gender relationships necessitates leadership in the state, markets and civil society- the key centers of power in the present globalizing economy. It is, therefore, imperative for women to be in the corridors of power and have the power to negotiate a better deal for themselves, if they are to influence policy decisions which have an impact upon them. Empowerment of women in all spheres, in particular the political sphere is crucial for their advancement and foundation of a gender-equal society. It is central to the achievement of the goals of equality, development and peace. Women’s political empowerment is premised on “three fundamental and non-negotiable principles: a) the equality between women and men; b) women’s rights to self representation and self determination.”(1) In empowerment, the key indeed is ‘power’; it is power to ‘access, ‘control’ and make ‘informed choices’. According to the Jakarta declaration “empowerment of women is not only an equity consideration, it was also a necessary precondition for sustainable economic and social development. Involvement of women in the political arena and in decision-making roles in an important tool for empowerment as well as monitoring standards of political performance.” (2)The application of the philosophical underpinnings of Jakarta Declaration are necessary ,because in the countries where women have gained near equal representation such as in Scandinavian countries, they have begun to alter the very nature of politics. Women are, however, virtually invisible in the political sphere. The notions of a distinct public/political sphere have been used to legitimize the exclusion of women from the public sphere. Under-representation or invisibility of women in decision-making reinforces their deprivation, leading to an unequal distribution of resources, neglect of their interests, needs, perspectives and priorities and no say in policy making. Their voices fall on deaf ears, and as Alida Brill vehemently insists, “without our own voices being heard inside the government arenas and halls of public policy and debate, we are without the right of accountability _ a basic entitlement of those who are governed “.(3) To effectuate feminization of politics a critical mass of women in the decision-making bodies is yet to emerge. The substantial gains made by the women’s movement over the decades, are not adequately reflected in representation of women in positions of power. The 30 percent target of women’s representation fixed by the Economic and Social Council is not included in the International Development Targets. (4) The world average of women in legislative bodies continues to be merely 12-13 percent; only a few countries have 30 percent or more women in decision-making posts. (5) According to the United Nations Division for the advancement of women (UNDAW), Fact sheet on women in government of 1996, the percentage of women in both ministerial and sub-ministerial levels ranges from 0 percent (in about 15 countries, to 30 percent in 2 countries. 15 countries had 0 percent of women in governmental positions in 1996, out of which 8 were Arab countries. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) statistics, from 1945 to 1995,...
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