FEFA believes that MoWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs), as a national institution protecting women’s rights can play a pivotal role in ensuring women’s full participation in all aspects of political processes. By strengthening its role, MoWA can exert meaningful influence on women’s participation in elections. It is evident that there still exist many remaining obstacles to women’s political participation in elections, including gender stereotypes, psychological and traditional barriers, and inequalities in education, training and resources. Therefore it is necessary to eliminate these challenges that are proved to be serious impediments to women’s participation. FEFA believes if certain changes are developed in the laws and are properly implemented, they can help enhance women’s political rights and electoral participation.
1) Adopting a policy for enhancing women’s electoral participation:
FEFA believes if MoWA adopts a comprehensive policy that guarantees women’s active political participation can definitely make a significant impact on the empowerment of women’s role in elections. The policy must be designed to identify elements that may prompt indirect discrimination or disproportionally disadvantage women during elections.
2) Encouraging collaboration among election management bodies, observatory organizations, civil society, political parties and security institutions:
The policy requires MoWA to assign Election Contact Points within its central and provincial departments with specific duties including keeping in constant touch with election management bodies, observatory organizations, political parties, civil society, independent media outlets and security institutions. Through its Contact Points, MoWA can build required collaboration with relevant entities to further support women candidates, election staff and observers.
3) Supporting women as election staff and observers:
Lack of women as election staff and observers has had a tremendously negative impact on women’s participation in elections. Therefore, it is suggested that the policy guarantees women an equal chance to serve at all levels within local and national election management bodies. Based on this policy, MoWA signs a Memorandum of Understanding with election management bodies, in order to enable the Ministry to assist IEC with recruitment process of female electoral staff in the capital and provinces. In case any problem rises or any challenge hampers the process, the Ministry seeks solution to the problems and shares the outcome with election management bodies as long as it does not overlap with or fringe upon their mandate.
4) Striving to encourage security authorities adopt policies which guarantee security for female candidates and female electoral locations:
During the past four elections, female candidates faced all types of discriminatory threats and were constantly warned by vigorous local figures, armed government opposition groups and religious fundamentalists who also were the greatest potential impact on women’s candidacy withdrawal. Therefore it is considered vital that the policy encourages MoWA to lobby for the timely adoption by MoI of a women security policy for the elections, also in the cabinet. Based on the policy, MoWA encourages policies recommended by security institutions which guarantee security in female electoral locations and for female candidates.
5) Conducting public awareness programs in cooperation with Civil Society Organizations:
Based on the policy, MoWA conducts long-term public awareness programs in cooperation with the Ministry of Pilgrimage & Endowment, the Afghan Islamic Scholars Council and civil society organizations to inform women of their political rights. With regard to the significant role of Mullahs and Islamic scholars in modulating the Afghan Islamic society, it is therefore required for MoWA to sign an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with each relevant entity (Ministry of Pilgrimage & Endowment and the Afghan Islamic Scholars Council) to effectively run public awareness programs for enhancing women’s political rights especially during elections. MoWA develops guidelines for Mullahs on women’s political rights and against hate speech in the mosques and other religious sites.
6) Making sure the electoral complaints submitted by women candidates are evaluated and resolved:
The process of evaluating and reaching out to every complaint submitted during elections is extremely significant and overly time consuming. Lessons learned from past efforts indicate, among all, female candidates were more susceptible due to the limitations they faced during the evaluation process of electoral complaints. Therefore, based on this policy, MoWA Election Contact Points who are assigned in central and provincial departments of MoWA help facilitate the process of submitting electoral complaints for female candidates and make sure the complaints are resolved in the best possible way.
7) Assuring the policy implementation:
It is a best practice for MoWA to incorporate this policy as part of its administration’s general policy and make sure it is properly enforced. It is also necessary that MoWA Contact Points assigned in central and provincial departments of MoWA are carefully monitoring the implementation of the policy at all time. The Contact Points can play a pivotal role in this process by keeping contact with elections management bodies, security institutions, observatory organizations, political parties and the candidates, which will further strengthen the role of MoWA in electoral process.
• Assigning Election Contact Points at central and provincial levels for the enforcement of policy:
- FEFA suggests that MoWA’s Election Contact Points are assigned in central and provincial legal affairs
departments and function within the framework of this policy during elections
- To manage the programs better, the Election Contact Points at the Ministry act as supervisors over those in provincial departments of MoWA and monitor the implementation process of the policy
MoWA should organize and instruct its resources and staff (MoWA’s provincial legal departments) in such a way that it can continuously monitor the progress in the implementation of its policy for the enhancement of women’s electoral participation and effectively act upon any problems. To achieve this, FEFA recommends more specifically:
• Creating an effective work mechanism for the Election Contact Points:
Work mechanism for the Election Contact Points must be drafted in a way that enables them to perform effectively during different electoral processes (Voter and candidates’ registration, campaign period, voting, vote counting, complaints procedures and the process of handling electoral complaints) within the framework of this electoral policy.
• Adopting an effective reporting system between the provincial and central Election Contact Points:
In order to ensure the policy is properly implemented and enforced, MoWA builds an effective reporting system among its provincial and central Election Contact Points. The system will not only report on the performance of the provincial Contact Points but will also provide the central Contact Point with sufficient information on the challenges and problems women face which are unsolvable at the provincial level. Therefore, based on this electoral policy, it is necessary that provincial Contact Points adopt a system that requires them to frequently update their central counterpart.
• Establishing a communication mechanism among the Election Contact Points and electoral bodies:
Based on this policy, MoWA encourages the creation of a sustainable and systematic communication mechanism among the provincial/central Election Contact Points and bodies involved in electoral processes.
• Developing a methodology to monitor the implementation of the policy during elections:
MoWA develops a methodology to regularly monitor and evaluate the activities of its Election Contact Points and informs the responsible department about the performance of the Contact Points. Carefully designed and conducted method will help identify, assess and report all the elements that may directly or indirectly disenfranchise women.
• Conducting training programs for the Election Contact Points:
In order to effectively implement the electoral policy, MoWA in cooperation with FEFA conducts training programs for the Election Contact Points to provide them with sufficient knowledge on the policy’s principles and regulations.