A record number of women are standing in Afghanistan’s critical parliamentary elections this weekend.
Shukria Barakzai is one of them. A mother-of-three, she was prompted to found her own women’s rights organisation, after learning that her husband had taken another wife without her permission, in contravention of Islamic law.
Afghanistan under the Taliban was not renowned for its progressive attitudes towards women’s rights. Euronews has spoken to this leading female Afghan politician and campaigner, to find out how and why she wants things to change:
Euronews: Mrs. Barakzai, what do you expect from these elections?
Shukria Barakzai: The current elections are taking place under difficult conditions. The people of Afghanistan expect to benefit from a decent parliament which – in line with the law – would supervise the application of the law, eradicate corruption, establish peace and consolidate unity in the country.
Given the current circumstances, however, and the criteria under which the candidates were presented, these expectations exceed the capability of the candidates, but there is still hope that the people of Afghanistan will show they are ready for democracy in their country. The parliament is an institution that needs to be built and firmly established ; and this means we must move forward towards the elections. Let us hope that the new parliament will be more successful in serving the Afghan people .
Euronews: One interesting aspect of the current election is the number and the proportion of women candidates as compared to men. What do the women of Afghanistan hope will come from this?
Shukria Barakzai: Afghan women , like all the people of Afghanistan, want their voices to be heard by the Parliament. They want more special projects allocated to them; they want a budget put aside for them which will allow them to benefit from health and education programmes, and help them to find jobs.
Regarding the number of women candidates, it has to be said that the problems facing women in Afghanistan far exceed those faced by men. Still, we are happy to say that the number of female candidates shows that women are aware of the situation , and I hope that more and more will participate in this process.
Euronews: And if you succeed in the current elections, what will you do for them and what plans would you follow in general?
Shukria Barakzai: I will be at the head of a political party called the “ Third Line “. We are reformists who believe in making things better. The establishment in Afghanistan should move from the rule of the “Elder” and replace it with the rule of law.
Our work for the people of Afghanistan and, in particular, our services to women is not just a slogan but is a commitment to the world at large and women in general that we will continue on this path, through the parliament or otherwise. I want to also say that for me , being in the parliament is not the ultimate goal ; I have lots of dreams for my country and for my people, and I believe that the people of Afghanistan deserve the best. I want them not only to have decent representatives in the Parliament but to live with dignity and freedom.