Afghan Women Delegates Call for More Women in Cabinet

Several women delegates to the loya jirga addressed both male and female delegates Monday to demand women’s rights in Afghanistan. “We’ve already told the government that women’s rights should not be a slogan,” said Sfoora Ilkahani, an ethnic Hazara from Bamiyan province. “If rights are not given, we will definitely come on the floor and fight.”

Women delegates also expressed grave concerns that warlords may dominate the government’s new cabinet. Malalai Ashakzai of Kandahar called for the appointment of women to the ministries of defense, education, intelligence and health as well as the committee to draft a new constitution and the transitional legislature. Currently, in the interim government, women hold only the women’s affairs and health cabinet posts.

This past weekend, women from across Afghanistan came together for a non-governmental forum to draft a resolution of shared priorities Ð including a plea for more security. “The first thing I want is stability and security,” Nasia Ghafuri said at the forum. “And we should have enough income to survive.”

When the loya jirga began today in Afghanistan, women were at the forefront with close to 200 female delegates. This is the largest representation of women in a traditional council, with close to 160 women appointed and approximately 40 elected to delegate seats. These 200 women are part of a national assembly of 1,551 delegates that are meeting this week in Kabul to draft the nation’s democratic future.

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Associated Press 6/11/02

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