Afghanistan's upcoming October 20 parliamentary election will have more than 400 women candidates. There are 417 women candidates, out of 2,565, set to contest seat across the country amid increasing violence.
"Elections in my country are not just about victory or defeat," 26-year-old candidate, Dewa Niazai, said. "It is about launching a small-scale war. I can get killed, injured or abducted." There has also been an alarming increase in deadly suicide attacks on election rallies, offices as well as candidates, in an attempt to deter voting.
"My supporters were waiting to listen to my speech but in a few seconds I was surrounded by their bodies," 32-year-old teacher and candidate, Nazifa Yousuf Bek, told Reuters. "I am shaken but I am also determined to continue the election campaign. This is my responsibility."
Women's rights advocates have said that despite emphasis being placed on promoting equality, child marriage and the murder of women, by family members, in "honor killings" remain widespread.
However, Afghanistan’s women representation is better than some Western nations. About 28 percent of seats in the Afghan lower house are currently held by women, this is eight points higher than the U.S. Congress.
"In comparison with male candidates, women have more problems in the election race ... insecurity and harassment inhibit women's mobility and justify family restrictions," Maria Bashir, Afghanistan's first female prosecutor from Herat province, said.
"Laws about equality exist on paper but they are yet to implemented," Sabri Andar, the only female candidate with disabilities, said. "As a lawmaker, I want to ensure we practice what is written in our constitution."
Nine candidates, including one woman, have been killed so far. Two others have been abducted and four others have been wounded, according to election officials.
Zabi Sadat, a deputy spokesperson for Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, told DW that: "We don't have exact numbers, but according to an estimate, at least 60 to 65 percent of candidates running in the October 20 polls are below the age of 40."