Best qualified, but no top jobs for Afghan women

Mon Jan 25, 2010 10:29am EST
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By Golnar Motevalli

KABUL (Reuters) - Suraya Dalil is a medical doctor, has worked for the United Nations and studied at an elite U.S. University, but this is not enough to convince Afghanistan's parliament she is qualified to run the country's health ministry.

Last week her nomination for the top position in one of President Hamid Karzai's key ministries was vetoed by parliament. Another female candidate, Palwasha Hassan, chosen to run the women's affairs ministry, was also rejected.

The decision was a blow to women's rights advocates who had lobbied hard for Karzai to pick both Dalil and Hassan.

They supported the pair not just because they want to see more women in positions of power in conservative, Muslim Afghanistan, but because they say both women are highly qualified and politically independent.

"Suraya Dalil in my opinion was one of the most qualified of any cabinet member that was introduced. She is very experienced and well educated," said Daoud Sultanzoy, a member of parliament (MP) for Afghanistan's southeastern Ghazni province. "Her rejection was very sad for me because I campaigned for her.

"Qualifications in this parliament, or any other parliament, are irrelevant. It's an obstructionist parliament in relation to the cause of women," he said.

In a sign of how sensitive the issue of women in politics in Afghanistan is, Hassan declined to be interviewed and Dalil was reluctant to talk about her rejection, saying she was grateful for the support she had received from many MPs.

"I don't know about what's going on inside parliament and how views are shaped and are decided," she told Reuters in an interview at the ministry of public health, where she has been appointed deputy minister and is currently acting minister.   Continued...