At the Polls in Afghanistan: Educated Women Vote!

On September 18th, as the rest of the world watched, fingers all over Afghanistan were stained for political participation. While watching the progress of the elections, did you wonder about the voting experience in Afghanistan? Can you imagine voting without being able to read? How would you know who to vote for or how to approach a complicated paper ballot? Would voting even seem worth it?  We caught up with two women, both students in Barakat’s literacy courses, who proudly participated in this year’s voting process.

Shareen, 45 and Gulalay, 35, took an interest in Afghan politics and  voted in the recent elections.

Shareen has been following politics in Afghanistan since elections were established after the Taliban fell in 2001.“When the Taliban was in power, women were not aware of politics and there was no opportunity for them to think about these things,” says Shareen.

When asked about the most important issues facing Afghanistan today, Shareen replied that she was concerned with “education for women, reforming the official corruption and the improvement of the Afghan rug industry. ”

Shareen was well prepared for this election because of her literacy skills but she says that many women who weren’t as well prepared would have had a much harder time with the voting process. “I was able to get information about the candidates on TV and from other sources. If I were illiterate, it would be much harder to choose the right candidate.” Gulalay, a first-time voter, agrees with this point,“If I weren’t literate, I wouldn’t even be able to read the different candidates’ names.”

These two women, both hopeful for change in Afghanistan benefit greatly from their education, but what about those women who aren’t educated? Karima, a poll worker in Faryab province, noted that not as many women were voting as men. While women voters are small in number, their participation is consistent and commendable. Literate women in Afghanistan will certainly help lead the next generation into a better political climate, and we support them!

Education for all is an essential part of any healthy political system. As Afghanistan continues to strengthen its government, we are glad to see widening participation amongst educated women – we are glad that the first generation of educated women is taking part in the process!