Multi-Million Dollar Program Announced to Support Afghan Women's Political Participation
Enhancing women's political participation is at the forefront of preparation for Afghanistan's next set of presidential and provincial elections. The Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) has partnered with the Asia Foundation to launch a new project that will support voter turnout among women in the April 2014 election as well as female elected officials and candidates running for office.
With 4.5 million pounds of funding from the United Kingdom, the project, entitled "Increasing Women's Political Participation and Dialogue Opportunities in Afghanistan," will run through December 2015. The Asia Foundation announced that the project will not only boost the ability of women to vote, but would also "provide capacity-building assistance to female members of parliament, female provincial councilors and potential female candidates to run in 2014-2015 elections" and "support women candidates to deliver campaign messages, facilitate networking and mentoring events with public figures and civil society organizations." In announcing the program, UK Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander emphasized, "Women are key to building a democratic and safe country. They are the future of Afghanistan."
The IEC has been working to advance Afghan women's participation in the electoral process through the establishment of a Gender Unit in 2009, targeted public education directed at women voters, the use of female polling staff and observers, and the development of appropriate security measures. Challenges to female candidacy and voter turnout remain, including inaccessibility of polling booths for women in remote areas as well as concerns for the safety of female candidates and voters. Despite these challenges, however, over four million Afghan citizens voted in the 2010 parliamentary election. About 39 percent of these voters were women, and women made up 15 percent of parliamentary candidates. Currently, women hold 28 percent of seats in the National Parliament.
Media Resources: The Asia Foundation 9/4/2013; Tolo News 8/28/2013; UK Department of International Development and HM Treasury, 8/292013; Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .