One of the most remarkable and appreciating achievements of government in post-Taliban democratic process is indefinite engagement of Afghan women in social, economic as well as, chiefly, in political spheres. We had woman presidential candidates in two previous presidential elections. And, in both previous Parliamentary elections, their participation was quite large, though was not in match with that of male candidates.
Many candidates had succeeded in elections. We have around 69 women MPs from total 249 MPs in current lower house of the Parliament and almost the same number in previous one. Same is the case with provincial elections. In every provincial election, even in the most conservative provinces, we have had female candidates and also female members for provincial councils.
In social sphere, great steps have been taken as well. The number of female students in primary, secondary as well as in higher education has tremendously increased. There is no data at disposal to provide accurate percentage of female students in higher education, but it is obvious that the gap between boys and girls, though large, but is decreasing rapidly and fresh graduated female students from high-school would soon compete in number with their male fellows in higher education. In both primary and secondary level, according to credential information, the number of female students has crossed 40% in particular regions and their admission shows a better prospective in future.
These all developments and improvements somehow took place spontaneously without the support of Kabul government. There are tens of girl's schools which are run by people-paid teachers, staffs and directors. The government has remained poor and weak to establish schools and support them because of several issues. One of them is of course corruption. Corruption has increased in ministry of education so that even the headmasters of people-established or people-financed schools face challenges for their registration.
In addition, the government has been unable to protect students against mounting warnings of Taliban-led militants. From 2001 onward, numbers of girl's as well as boy's schools have been torched. So many times, school girls were directly attacked by acids and many have lost their lives on the way to school or the way back to home. But the government remained unable to persecute the attackers and try justice. Even in the most secured areas suspicious incidents have taken place but still the issues have remained vague.
Recently in Bamyan province, which is one of most secure and calm provinces in the country, girl students of a school collectively got sick. Unfortunately, neither the reason was determined nor the type of illness they were suffering from. Similar cases happened in Nahoor and Malistan, two Hazara populated districts of Ghazni Province.
Anyhow, generally observing, in such spheres, Afghan women have found the opportunity to appear and showcase their talents. This all progress has been made after 2001 and by instant support of international community, while the security situation has remained a challenging issue, particularly for women. Many view that if Taliban-led militants were unable to threaten the security of Afghan women their presence in all spheres was far larger then today's.
But can the participation of women in education and in political spheres represent the improvement of their general social and economic status in the society? Sorry to disappoint you, my answer is "No". I think Afghan women have a long way to go to entitle their rights and break traditional chains that have tied them in status of second rate citizens.
It is definitely correct that we have 69 female MPs in parliament, but how many votes were casted in their favor to take them to lower house of the parliament? Have we looked the issue from this angle? What we observed has been the symbolic presence of women in the Parliament, but not the process how they found their ways. We have a moderate constitution which is forced on the tradition of the society with the support and pressure of international community. The change at any given society cannot be, I think sociologist agree with me, assessed on the basis of approved laws or ruling authority.
In another word, what we are observing in the society is top-to-bottom change, not bottom-to-top change, though I have never lost trust on political authority having the power to bring about huge changes, as Taliban regime forced such top-to-bottom change in reversal way and also through imposition of huge humanitarian cost. The change can be forced but in extent that does not spark a reactionary force in the society, which would cause far larger problem. Top-to-bottom change plan must be held here but with tolerance and patience.
It should be noticed that I do not mean that the current plan of top-to-bottom change has occurred with haste; I do not think so at all. What I am trying to tell is that that many experts and officials are complacent about women achievements, which, I think, is false and illusionary, because they have had no remarkable achievements under the current regime. Their presence in political sphere should be assessed on the basis of realistic views. The total 69 female MP's did not gain votes to match only ten top of male MPs' votes. In another word, the vote of ten top male MPs are larger than total votes gained by 69 female MP's.
It means that Afghan society has still remained too conservative and female candidates would not have succeeded if they had competed with male fellows in a free and fair election, because the number of votes of many male candidates who failed to find way into parliament was more than current female MP's. If they are in the parliament, it is not because of their votes, because 30 percent of seats of lower house of the parliament are allocated to female candidates. It means a woman can win a parliamentary seat with just few hundred votes, if another woman does not stand against her. It is a bitter reality and, therefore, there is still a long way for Afghan woman to go and determine her status.