Afghanistan’s new president-elect pledged in his victory speech on Monday to give women prominent roles in his government and told his nation that women are important to the country’s future.
The remarks by President-elect Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai came a day after the landmark power-sharing deal signed by Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates. The agreement resolved a drawn-out dispute that threatened to plunge Afghanistan into political turmoil while complicating the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops.
Ghani Ahmadzai also said his former opponent – Abdullah Abdullah, who will fill the newly created role of government chief executive – has turned from competitor to colleague and that the two are committed to improving Afghanistan.
The speech Monday took on the air of a campaign celebration, with a large crowd of supporters in attendance. Ghani Ahmadzai clasped the hands of female supporters and he and others raised their hands over their heads, a notable moment in a country where women are often socially segregated. The 65-year-old Ghani Ahmadzai said he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, including on the Supreme Court, where no female justices have ever served. He continued the theme during the nationally televised speech. “In the face of these girls I can see future Afghan leaders,” he said as he told his “sisters” in attendance that they have equal rights in society and government.
Mary Akrami, the head of the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre, said she welcomed such sentiments but hoped they would be followed by action. She noted that Afghan women suffer heavily from family violence.
The incoming president is viewed as worldly and well-educated. A former finance minister, he has worked at the World Bank and earned a PhD from New York’s Colombia University.