Former MP Mursal Nabizada killed in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and other stories
#WomenLead (Issue 129): Your weekly round-up on women in politics
Hello, and welcome to Issue 129!
It’s been a BIG week in the world of women in politics. One of the most popular leaders of our times has announced she is stepping down. But our mind has been elsewhere for most of the week – in Afghanistan, where a former MP who chose to stay back in the country was shot dead. If this does not move the world to action, we don’t know what will.
In this week’s edition, we bring you updates from Benin and New Zealand, and the spotlight is on Afghanistan. In case you missed last week’s edition, you can read it here.
😟 SHOCK EXIT: In a rather rude shock that caught many of us off guard, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announced that she would be stepping down from her position, citing burnout and saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” for another four years. “With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you’re the right person to lead, and also when you’re not,” she said, announcing her decision. “For me, it’s time.”
Ardern has been serving in the position since 2017, and has gained immense popularity not only in her country but around the globe for her leadership. Along with leading with compassion and empathy, Ardern has also been in the news for her striking responses to obnoxious sexism. Not surprisingly, her decision to quit has inspired a massive wave of farewell posts from people all across the globe.
👍 WELCOME CHANGE: 28 women are set to become members of Benin’s Parliament, a significant jump from 6 in the previous house. In the run-up to the election, Benin had introduced a new electoral code that mandates that at least one woman be elected from each constituency ensuring that at least 24 women would make it as MPs.
🤝 BUILDING TRUST: Female elected representatives can help fight polarization and reduce levels of partisan hostility and distrust, reported Phys.org, citing a new study. A survey by the researchers also showed that both men and women voters react positively to parties that they don’t otherwise support if those parties elected more women MPs. This, the researchers said, showed that increasing women’s parliamentary presence could “mitigate cross-party hostility”. The research (Adams et. al.) used data on women's presence in 125 political parties in 20 Western democracies from 1996 to 2017.
Spotlight: AFGHANISTAN 🇦🇫🇦🇫🇦🇫
Mursal Nabizada, a former Afghan MP, was shot dead at her home in Kabul last week.
Nabizada was 26 when she was first elected as an MP in 2018. She represented Kabul and was also a member of the parliamentary defence commission before the Taliban's capture of power in 2021. She was one of the few women politicians who chose to stay behind after the power shift.
On January 15, unknown gunmen attacked and shot dead Nabizada and her security guard at her residence. Nabizada’s brother and a second security guard were injured, while a third security guard reportedly fled from the house with money and jewellery.
The assassination has sent shockwaves around the globe. The Inter-Parliamentary Union expressed great sadness in its tribute to Nabizada.
For other former Afghan women MPs, it has also triggered a sense of fear for their own lives.
“Even at night, I cannot sleep very well, because I am thinking that someone will come and someone will kill me as well," Gulalai Mohammadi told Canadian radio show CBC’s The House.
Mohammadi and Nabizada were friends, and both of them were part of a group of nine ex-lawmakers who were hoping to seek refuge in Canada. Unfortunately, for Nabizada it is already too late for that hope to be realised, but in the wake of her killing, pressure is mounting on Canada to bring the other eight women to the country, CBC reported.
“She was a young, passionate woman…she was an ambitious girl and wanted to deliver [for] her country. She ran for Parliament when she was very young. She chose to stay despite the fact that she could initially leave Afghanistan as the Taliban took over, but she wanted to deliver. Over time she wanted to leave...the way she was killed was brutal [and] is an indication of how challenging and extremely difficult life is for women in Afghanistan,” Nabizada’s former political colleague Fawzia Koofi told BBC.
"She didn't do anything wrong," said Mohammadi, adding that Nabizada was targeted simply because she was a high-profile woman.
At #WomenLead we are heartbroken and shaken by the news. Afghanistan’s war on its women gets darker and murkier by the day, and it’s terrifying that we all go on watching helplessly. We must, must rage against the dying of the light.
Reflections & Reads
In pictures: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern via Stuff
“Cameroon activists push gender parity for Senate elections” via Voice of America
“Where are the women? Field notes from the Bharat Jodo Yatra” via The Wire
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