Afghanistan’s Parliament in the Making

Afghanistan’s Parliament in the Making

29. Jun. 2009
Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with UNIFEM
Kostenlos
pdf
Veröffentlichungsort: Berlin
Veröffentlichungsdatum: June 29, 2009
Seitenanzahl: 192
ISBN / DOI: 978-3-86928-006-6


Publication

Afghanistan’s Parliament in the Making

June 29, 2009

Gendered Understandings and Practices of Politics in a Transitional Country

The involvement of women in Afghanistan’s public life is decreasing. Attacks, vigilantism, and legal processes that contradict the basic principles of human and women’s rights are the order of the day. The security situation is worsening in step with the disenchantment arising from the lack of results and functional shortcomings of existing democratic structures. In the face of such difficulties, we often forget who should create the legal underpinnings for the powering Afghanistan: the women and men in parliament who are working to build a state in these turbulent times of transition. To what extent will these elected representatives succeed in creating alternatives to established traditional power structures? What are the obstacles they face? What kinds of networks or caucuses are they establishing?

This book, which is based on interviews of male and female members of parliament held in Kabul in 2007 and 2008, examines the realities of parliamentary work in Afghanistan. It shows how varied and coercive the patterns of identification prevalent in Afghanistan can be, and it provides a rare opportunity to gain insights into the self-images and roles of women in parliament.


Preface

The Heinrich Böll Foundation has been supporting projects promoting democracy and the active participation of women and men in the process of rebuilding Afghanistan since early 2002. Among these, it successfully fostered the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF), Afghanistan’s sole research institution to date for women’s rights. As publishers of a widely circulated women’s magazine, the WCLRF reaches a large, interested audience. The magazine’s coverage of political content and social issues that are especially relevant to women clearly strikes a chord among its readership. The renowned anthropologist and singer Samar Minhalla and the Heinrich Böll Foundation jointly produced a number of songs focusing on civic action that topped the Afghan charts – a noteworthy achievement, considering the skepticism with which large parts of the Afghan population still respond to the presence of women in public life.

Our partnership with the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) resulted in the founding of a youth organization focused on advocacy, which successfully negotiated with the Ministry of Transport to have special reserved seats for women introduced in overcrowded public transport vehicles.

For us, the question remains how we can contribute effectively to civil development and foster political participation in the provinces – areas beyond the reach of the international organizations concentrated in Kabul. In light of this, it was a virtual stroke of luck that tribal elders from the southeastern Afghan province of Paktiya turned  to Swisspeace in 2003 to explore ways in which they could become involved in the peace and reconstruction processes and work together with both the Afghan government and international representatives. In December 2003, the Tribal Liaison Office – since renamed The Liaison Office (TLO) – was founded with funding from the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Swisspeace. The project rapidly gained momentum, and by February 2004, the organization had opened offices in Paktiya, Paktika, and Khost in addition to its headquarters in Kabul. In 2008, a further office opened in Jalalabad. TLO is now in great demand as a successful mediator between the central government and international organizations on one side and traditional local structures on the other.

From the outset, one of our concerns has been to increase the involvement of women in decision-making and to ensure that girls from conservative families also have the opportunity to attend school. Today, we have to concede that we are still far from the project goal of securing freedom, equality, and political co-determination for the entire population. The road to that goal appears especially long in southern and southeastern Afghanistan.

In this 2009 election year, the results of six years of hard work on our part and that of other organizations are sobering: election campaigns featuring candidates, open election events, citizens’ hearings, and the distribution of information brochures do not take place, nor does Afghanistan have a transparent, egalitarian, and just system of government. The involvement of women in public life is decreasing. Violence throughout the country remains unchecked. Attacks, vigilantism, and legal processes that contradict the basic principles of human and women’s rights are the order of the day. The security situation is worsening in step with the disenchantment arising from the lack of results and functional shortcomings of existing democratic structures. In the face of such difficulties, we often forget who should wield the actual power in Afghanistan, and who should create the legal underpinnings for that power: the women and men in parliament who are working to build a state in these turbulent times of transition. To what extent will these elected representatives succeed in creating alternatives to established traditional power structures? What are the obstacles they face? What kinds of networks or caucuses are they establishing?

This book, which is based on interviews of male and female members of parliament held in Kabul in 2007 and 2008, examines the realities of parliamentary work in Afghanistan. It shows how varied and coercive the patterns of identification prevalent in Afghanistan can be. Of those not specific to gender, the family, clan, and ethnic background are most important; an individual’s regional heritage and status also play a role. While it can be dangerous or even deadly for women to ignore those identities, a lack of solidarity with other women will not result in sanctions. Cooperation between female members of parliament is therefore not very pronounced.

This book provides a rare opportunity to gain insights into the self-images and roles of women in parliament. Of the 91 female members of parliament in both houses, 76 took part in the study. The questions related to areas in which similar interests could lead to cooperation provide especially valuable direction in supporting parliamentary work in the future. Topics for coalitions of exclusively female representatives must be based on the needs of the population as a whole – especially with regard to security, healthcare, and education – to enable the people to attain greater political weight.

I would like to thank the Kabul office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Semin Qasmi, Marion Müller, and Bente Scheller for their contributions to this project. I would also like to express my gratitude to UNIFEM for their trusting cooperation, which will also ensure an even greater number of interested readers for this publication. Finally, I would like to thank the author, Andrea Fleschenberg, and the members of parliament for their dedication, insights, and time. Without their courageous efforts, and those of women throughout the country, there would be no hope for security, democracy, and equality for women in Afghanistan.

Berlin, May 2009

Barbara Unmüßig

Executive Board
Heinrich Böll Foundation


From the preface of Afghanistan’s Parliament in the Making. Gendered Understandings and Practices of Politics in a Transitional Country. By Andrea Fleschenberg. Edited by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with UNIFEM.

Gendered Understandings and Practices of Politics in a Transitional Country -
Afghanistan’s Parliament in the Making
   
Editor Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with UNIFEM
Place of publication Berlin
Date of publication June 2009
Pages 192
ISBN 978-3-86928-006-6
Service charge Free of charge