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Afghan NGO Seeks To Increase Number Of Women In Government

Afghan women take part in a demonstration against the national parliament's removal of outspoken female legislator Malalai Joya in May 2007.
KABUL -- An Afghan nongovernmental organization has compiled a list of 1,400 women qualified to hold posts in national or local government in an effort to promote greater inclusion of women in politics and social life, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

The list, based on a nationwide survey, was put together by Khorasan, an NGO affiliated with the Women's Affairs Ministry. The group hopes to present the list to the government.

Khorasan Director Seema Ghani told RFE/RL that the goal is to raise the voices of women, particularly those from remote and undeveloped regions of Afghanistan where women's involvement in government decision-making is minor or nonexistent.

"Despite the general perception that women are not capable of undertaking leadership positions, our survey shows that women have the qualifications needed to take an active role in the politics and social affairs of their regions," Ghani said.

"The list is also evidence that it is not just women in urban areas, but also from the poorest and most-remote areas, who possess these abilities," she said. "We are therefore continuing efforts to increase the names on this list and present them to the government."

Halima Ropema, one of the women on the list, told RFE/RL the compilation of the list is a cause for optimism and a step in the right direction.

"Unfortunately, women are playing a very insignificant role in the everyday running of the country," Ropema said. "We all welcome the creation of such a list as we need to have more competent women in all levels of governance."

Following the ousting of the hard-line fundamentalist Taliban in 2001, women burst onto the public scene, assuming political roles, establishing women's organizations, and flooding back to schools and universities. The country's election laws include a quota for women in elected posts like provincial councils and parliament.

But despite such advances, many challenges remain.

National surveys show that more than 60 percent of women still experience physical violence, while 70 percent are forced into marriage. Numerous schools for girls have been burned down by militants, who have also attacked and killed female students.

Afghan authorities have also failed to investigate and prosecute those behind the high-profile murders of female journalists, rights activists, and politicians.

Read more in Dari here