I worked recently in the Independent Elections Commission for about four months in Balkh province where we opened registration centers for a week in each village for people to get voting cards for the elections.
The mullahs made a public announcement so everyone in the village would come to the voting registration center. The custom was for the village leader and his family to register first. After they get their election cards, other people come. The participation by men was high, but not by women.
I enjoyed meeting so many Afghans from the villages with different customs. All are interesting with different dress, language, and attitudes. I learned many things from this trip to the northern border province that I won’t forget.
One girl came to the registration center with her mother-in-law. The girl was seventeen and pregnant. When I asked her, “Why are you married at this age?” her mother-in-law interrupted and answered that she was engaged when she was three years old. I asked the girl again, and she explained how she was engaged to her cousin. “I did not have the right to choose. It is my family’s right and I must do it.”
I saw that women have a very bad situation in some villages. They don’t even have basic rights such as going to school so they can learn to read. Most of the schools have no women teachers and it was rare to see a girls’ school. I think that communities should be more aware about women’s rights so they can assist illiterate women in remote areas.
In the end, I asked the media and women’s organizations to try and raise awareness about women’s rights under Islam and the laws of Afghanistan.
Photo by Mohammad Ismail