President Hamid Karzai recently announced twenty-seven ministers that will serve in his new Cabinet, including three women. The only female presidential candidate to run in Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban elections, Dr. Masooda Jalal, was named the Minister of Women’s Affairs. Jalal, a medical doctor, was also the only women to run for president of the Interim Afghan Government. According to the Associated Press, Jalal received death threats during her campaign for the presidency.
Sediqa Balkhi, the second woman named to serve in the Karzai Cabinet, will be the Minister of Martyrs and Disabled. Balkhi was one of three women who participated in the December 2001 Bonn Conference that outlined the formation of the post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. During the Taliban years, Balkhi led the Afghan Women’s Political and Cultural Activities Center in Iran. She is also a former teacher who has a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies.
The Youth Affairs Ministry was created to address the issues and problems confronted by Afghan youth who have lived through years of war. This new ministry will be led by Amina Afzali, a woman who also participated in the Bonn Conference in December 2001. Afzai served on the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the commission that drafted the new Afghan constitution.
Both Balkhi and Afzali participated in the Afghan Women’s Summit for Democracy convened in Brussels in December 2001 by Western feminist organizations including Equality Now, the European Women’s Lobby, V-Day and the Feminist Majority Foundation.