2005 Poll: Four Years After the Fall of the Taliban, Afghans Optimistic About the Future

At the same time, while 89 percent of Afghans support women voting, fewer, 66 percent, strongly support this right. And only about four in 10 "strongly" support women taking jobs outside the home or holding government office. Even among Afghan women, fewer than half strongly support women working outside the home or holding government office. Personal experience may be a factor: Just 14 percent of Afghan women are employed, compared with about 60 percent of women in the United States.

There is equivocation on some of these issues among Afghan women themselves; fewer than half strongly support women working outside the home or holding government office. Personal experience may be a factor: Just 14 percent of Afghan women are employed, compared with about 60 percent of women in the United States.

There also are ethnic and regional differences, with support for women's rights much lower among Afghanistan's Pashtun population, Sunni Muslims who are dominant in the South and East of the country.

Also, support for women holding political office, in particular, is much weaker in rural as opposed to urban areas, and weakest among rural men.

Current Conditions

Afghans give positive reports to several aspects of their daily lives: Eighty-three percent rate their overall living conditions positively, and ratings are nearly as high both for local schools and the availability of food. Just more than seven in 10 likewise say their security from crime and violence is good. In each of these, though, far fewer -- ranging from just 15 percent to 28 percent -- say things are "very" good.

Fewer overall, 59 percent, say clean water is readily available, and other basic conditions -- medical care, jobs and economic opportunity, roads and bridges and power supply -- are rated far worse.

There are significant differences in conditions across the country. Security is better in urban areas (of which the largest by far is Kabul, where about one in seven Afghan adults live); 40 percent in urban areas describe their security as "very good," compared with 24 percent in rural areas.

Both security and economic conditions are notably worse in the Southwest and East (where the Taliban have been active) than elsewhere. And services seem weakest in the Northwest, where fewer than two in 10 report having clean water, good medical care or good roads, bridges and other infrastructure. In Kabul, just 18 percent lack any electrical power; that soars to more than two-thirds in the North and East.

Security

Security is especially critical in a country so long wracked by war. When the 77 percent of Afghans who say the country is headed in the right direction are asked in an open-ended question why they feel that way, three related answers dominate: security, peace or the end of war, and disarmament.

Mentions of freedom, democracy and reconstruction follow; women in particular mention freedom for women, who were repressed under the Taliban regime: Twenty percent of women (compared with 4 percent of men) cite freedom for women as a reason they say the country's going in the right direction.

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