The first time I voted was after the collapse of the Taliban regime. I knew nothing about elections. It was my duty to go to the polling place and vote for the candidate I liked best. Believe me, I knew nothing about the candidates or their promises. But I was very happy to go with my sister and brothers and father to the poll zone at the school. After five years of having to stay home with no social participation, the right to vote was a dream come true.
Now this is my third presidential election and I have learned many things after voting in the past two elections.
I began to understand about the process and by the second presidential election in 2009, I read all the candidates’ programs. I participated in some campaigns and I asked many questions about policies and strategies, and I followed all the news and speeches on all the TV channels. By this point I was working and also volunteering for two women’s social networks and with their training and the exchange of ideas I was much better prepared to consider the candidates.
I was ready. I knew who to vote for. But that election brought new hurdles because the Taliban was threatening to cut the fingers of any women who voted. It scared me. On the morning of election day, my brothers left to vote but they didn’t let me go with them. This was difficult to accept, but I was afraid to go alone. That afternoon, my father asked me if I wanted to vote. I said yes. He told me not to be scared and he was taking me and my sister to vote. He said it was just a rumor to keep us from participating. I was very happy and ran to get my sister. We went and voted.
Now I am preparing for another election, and I think differently. All the candidates are promising to bring job opportunities, women’s education, security, and so on. This time, their programs don’t seem credible to me. Now I know about how these candidates use campaign promises to get votes. I have looked for opportunities to discuss the issues with the candidate I am thinking of supporting. I want to ask about things I don’t see in his programs.
If I get a chance to speak with the candidate I favor, I will tell him: Please do not make promises you can’t keep, do not use women as your weapon, do not focus on girls’ education, and do not overlook international support. Instead, set two important, reachable goals for your first two years in office. For example, work to improve agriculture and telecommunications. The Afghan people are tired of unrealistic promises. We have people dying from hunger.
How can we be expected to believe that after this election, all girls and boys magically will go to school, and sit at tables equipped with computers? It is not true and it will not be true soon. Reality is what we see on a daily basis in our routine lives. How can women imagine that magically, and without international support, especially without American support, women will no longer face harassment or violence, that Sitara will not have her nose cut. The past twelve years taught us a lot. Our children don’t believe in such ambitious promises. How we can believe?
Photo by Anja Niedringhaus