Afghanistan's Female Lawmakers

The Afghan parliament has been in session for nearly four months. Female lawmakers, who make up one-fourth of the seats in the lower house, are trying to form a women's caucus and increase their representation in the Cabinet and in the courts. Host Debbie Elliott talks with Representative Shinkai Karokhail, of Kabul Province, about her experience in office.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

In Afghanistan, where women have traditionally been kept at home, one fourth of seats in new Parliament were reserved for women. The female lawmakers are forming a caucus, hoping to expand their representation in the cabinet and courts. We called up one of them, Shinkai Karokhail, to see how she's fairing. I asked how her male colleagues were treating her.

Ms. SHINKAI KAROKHAIL (Afghanistan Lawmaker): Some of them are fantastic, very good, very cooperative. (Unintelligible) you know?

ELLIOTT: So some support you and others barely tolerate you.

Ms. KAROKHAIL: Yeah.

ELLIOTT: Human rights groups report that for years now after the fall of the Taliban women in Afghanistan still face violence. There is rape, forced marriages, abuse. How will you address these problems?

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: Well, of course there are so many things for Afghan women has to change. As this is a like a long, long struggle to go ahead. If we have a forced marriage (unintelligible) it should be illegal and the people really crossing this should get punished.

ELLIOTT: So not only would you like to see forced marriage illegal but you need to see how that could possibly be enforced.

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: Yeah.

ELLIOTT: Tell me about your campaign strategy. How did you appeal to voters?

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: I told them trust a woman because women are more hard working, more patient, they have more commitment. They are not involved in any crime and human rights abusing, you should do these things. So trust a woman (unintelligible) a woman. It was a general campaign for a woman.

ELLIOTT: I read some women who were running faced some pressure from their families and friends not to do so. How did your family react to your plans to run for Parliament?

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: Inside my family nobody helped me, honestly. My big brother was even against. He said no, no. You have enough work, you have small children to raise. You don't have enough time to go for this kind of job. And I said, Well, this is my personal decision. I'm running. Maybe I will win, I will lose. (Unintelligible) but still I tried and I win.

ELLIOTT: Now you have four children?

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: Yeah, I have four children. One daughter and three sons.

ELLIOTT: How do you see the role of women in Afghanistan when your daughter is a grown woman?

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: Well, that's why I am struggling just for her future, for other girls in my country for their future. Really I want to see my daughter as a strong woman. I laugh here when everybody asks her what do you want to be and she says I want to be the President of Afghanistan.

ELLIOTT: And seeing you trying to be a part of government now gives her that hope that someday she could do the same?

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: Yes.

ELLIOTT: Shinkai Karokhail is a member of the Afghan Parliament. Thank you for speaking with us.

Ms. KAROKAHAIL: Thank you very much.

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