Parwan Province: Shukria works in a beauty salon. She is not married and expects to vote for the first time in April.

We all fear for the future of Afghanistan, but I love being able to participate in the upcoming election and vote for our next leader.

Any Afghan who has the love and respect of the Afghan people can be president. I expect the new president of Afghanistan to defend the rights of women, especially uneducated women who don’t know anything about their rights.

I did not vote in the last election because I was not old enough, but this year my family took me to get my voting card. 

The lack of security has caused many problems in Afghanistan, including the fact that women cannot go out in public by themselves. A man must accompany us outside of our homes. If there were peace, I would enjoy going to vote, but right now I am afraid.

Candidates should think seriously about women’s rights, which is the biggest problem and concern that women have. There should be equality between men and women. When women can vote and support the president, the president should support women in return.

Politicians should educate women about their educational and family rights, including rights related to pregnancy and divorce. They should protect women from abuse and establish a legal age for marriage.

The next leader of Afghanistan should be someone who loves and is loved by the country. He should be kind, knowledgeable, and experienced in bringing peace. The winner will be responsible for the people’s happiness.

I am excited to see the results of this election and what happens afterward. I want to see and feel real peace in our country.

I think it is good to try to integrate with the Taliban and call them brothers as President Karzai did. To stop seeing them as enemies will help bring peace to the country. But we do not want the things that happened during the Taliban regime to happen again. We don’t want violence against women and to have our children beaten in the street.

By Shukria, as told to Regina, with translation by Arezoo