Portrait of a Young Man as a Civic Educator
Mazar-e-Sharif: A class of 130 female students at the Mawlana Institute of Health Sciences in downtown Mazar, listen in rapt attention as Abdullah Ahmadi (name changed), 25, a civic educator and his team explains the finer details of the on-going voter registration process to the young students: the essential documentation that they need to bring to the registration centre to establish their legal date of birth and their identification.
- A class of 130 female students at the Mawlana Institute of Health Sciences in downtown Mazar, listen in rapt attention as Abdullah Ahmadi (name changed), 25, a civic educator.
- Ahmadi’s motivational style combined with fluency in delivery is striking a chord among his receptive audience.
- Ahmadi got married just the previous day and he is back at the civic education presentation, without taking even a day or two off to enjoy his marriage.
- Some 180 male and 160 female voters register at Balkh University VR centres for men and women respectively.
- The UNDP-supported Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT) Phase II is the primary mechanism for international technical support to the electoral process in Afghanistan
- ELECT II is now a four year project, from 2012 to 2015, with a total budget of USD 338M.
With barely concealed fervor, Ahmadi talks hiis audience through the special facilities that have been put in place to enable females to register themselves as voters in relative security, and later exercise their franchise in a free and fair manner. One of the students interrupts him to have her query answered: is it okay if I can enlist the support of my female friends in the neighbourhood to educate other women about the voter registration process? “Of course you can. All of you are now a part of the voter- education volunteers”, Ahmadi responds.
Ahmadi’s motivational style combined with fluency in delivery is striking a chord among his receptive audience. It is clear in Mazar a dynamic group of civic educators, carefully chosen by the provincial Independent Election Commission team, is yielding handsome dividends. The results of quality civic education can be witnessed at the two voter registration centres in the city – in the old Balkh University campus and in the Mevlana Jalaluddin High School -- where first-time voters, both men and women, queue up from early morning to have their voter identification cards issued.
Ahmadi combines the use of flip charts, lectures and role-play to bring home his message about the significance of women’s vote in the elections. The young students, he tells his audience, bear the patriotic duty to vote but also as the educated class they must spread the message among their peers, families, friends, neighbours and relatives.
As he ends his presentation, he distributes some takeaways among the students. Things like stickers and leaflets that the girls will disseminate among potential voters that fall within their sphere of influence.
Ahmadi got married just the previous day and he is back at the civic education presentation, without taking even a day or two off to enjoy his marriage. Just watching him in action one can see the fire and enthusiasm of a young Afghan committed to the cause of educating his fellow countrymen about the many virtues of voting in the next presidential and provincial council elections.
His fellow civic educators, Farhad and Farangaiz shower fulsome praise on Ahmadi’s high sense of duty and high level of motivation to get the job done. “His idealism and civic education skills are inspirational and he is focused on covering as many influencers as possible in the Balkh province so that every potential voter goes out to vote on the polling day”, says Farhad of Ahmadi.
Youth, Women turn up in Big Numbers in Mazar to Register as New Voters
The availability of registration centres and polling booths that are exclusively meant for women has certainly helped push number of new women voters in Balkh province. These centres are staffed by females. The Voter Registration Centre is located in the Old Balkh University campus turned operational on 26 May. In the present phase of voter registration, the centre will stay open until March-end 2014, two weeks before the elections.
Are you an Afghan citizen? If so, do you have valid identification documents? Have you attained the legal age of voting? Can you please present your date of birth certificate? Are you a domicile of Balkh province? Do you have a Voter ID card from before that is not valid any more. The staff at the front desk of the registration center starts with those questions and once convinced of the person’s credentials, proceeds to click a picture of the applicant for the voter ID card.
In the two-step process, the applicant moves to the second desk where further due diligence on the applicant takes place. A few more questions are asked of the applicant and his identification and birth documents validated. The data is recorded and certified by the registration staff and a voter ID card issued to the applicant. In five quick minutes the applicant walks out the door with a voter ID card.
At the voter registration centre for women, an estimated 70 to 90 women come to register on a daily basis. Naseeba, the head of the centre and Nigina, an observer from the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) who sits unobtrusively on the side, noting various aspects of the registration process as she works through a check-list. The list includes questions on the security of the registration center; whether the center opened on time; number of women that received the voter registration cards during the course of any single day; does the centre comply with the norm to have women-only staff at the centre? And finally, women’s satisfaction level with the voter registration process.
To date, country-wide, more than 1.3 million voter ID cards have been issued to new voters, returnees, people who moved constituency since last elections or those with damaged or lost VR cards. Latest figures reveal that nearly 30 per cent of those registered are women.
On a good day, some 180 male and 160 female voters register at Balkh University VR centres for men and women respectively. Basir Naeemi, chairperson of the voter registration center informs that more than 10,000 citizens have registered at the center so far, an estimated 35 per cent of them females.
The four target groups for voter registration include the youth who are reaching the legal age of voting, 18 in the case of Afghanistan; those that have changed their constituency location since the last elections and need a new valid registration in their present area of residence; returnees from other countries that lack valid voting documents; and, those that have lost or damaged their voter card and need to have their cards replaced.
The UNDP-supported Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT) Phase II is the primary mechanism for international technical support to the electoral process in Afghanistan. The project supports the national electoral institutions to plan and conduct credible elections, most immediately the 2014 Presidential and Provincial Council elections and the 2015 Parliamentary elections. ELECT II is now a four year project, from 2012 to 2015, with a total budget of USD 338M.
Donors to ELECT II are Australia, Canada, Denmark, European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States of America.
Text: Kumar M Tiku