Hundreds of women have been campaigning hard for upcoming elections in Afghanistan.
This entails going against prevailing Islamic traditions. In a culture where women are largely neither seen nor heard in public life, the candidates have to show their faces for one thing. Okmina is one of the cross-dressing candidates: “Women don’t have rights in Afghanistan — or too few, if any. The difference between men and women is big. Here, a man can say anything he wishes but a woman’s voice is always suppressed,” she says. Provincial polling and the vote for president will take place at the same time. For the women of today’s Afghanistan — rocked by war for some 30 years — Taliban strictures still apply. But there is now a constitution, and this says some one quarter of provincial council and parliamentary seats must go to women. Shahla Ata, running for president against the incumbent Hamid Karzai, says she would be proud to challenge the status quo on gender if she had the power: “If I lose I will still continue my campaign for the women of Afghanistan,” she adds. Afghans will head for polling stations next Thursday, although militants have been warning people to stay away. Voting irregularities are expected — in a land where many men even consider displaying women’s’ faces as shameful.