KHOST CITY (Pajhwok): The only recreational park for women in the capital of southeastern Khost province is being used by men and the revenue from stalls — meant to support poor females — ends up in pockets of a few individuals, Pajhwok’s findings show.
The recreational park, built by the municipality, is located in the southern part of Khost City. The facility was handed over to the Women’s Affairs Department in compliance with a verbal order from President Ghani more than three years ago. An agreement, signed between the municipality and the Women’s Affairs Department in April 2018 says the park should have been vacated and handed over to women. However, the park is still used by men.
Documents obtained by Pajhwok show that 50 stalls in the park to support [ppr women are also used being by men. The kiosks were built on the recommendation of former women’s affairs director Malalai Wali and in compliance with ex-governor Hakam Khan Habibi’s order for commercial purposes in early 2019. Pajhwok also obtained documents containing fingerprints of 50 women, who were supposed to use the stalls, each rented out at a rate of of 2,000 afghanis a month. The rent is to be paid to the government.
Sitting Women’s Affairs Director Shafia Noorzai said she was unaware about the receipient of the park revenue before her appointment., But the money is being deposited in the state treasure gor the last one year. She added the park was turned over to the Women’s Affairs Department following a verbal order from the persident around three years ago. For certain reasons, however, women are yet to get control of the park.
Noorzai said that an agreement was also signed between the governor’s house, Womne’s Affairs Department and the municipality. Under the trilateral accord, the facility should be used by women. The municipality has requested a written order from the president for shifting the land ownership to the Women’s Affairs Department. “We have contacted the Ministry of Womens’ Affairs, which asked us about a letter it received from the governor’s house. “We request the ministry to help transfer the land (to Women’s Affairs Department),” she said.
Pajhwok tried to find and talk to the women who were promised the park booths, but failed. Pajhwok also asked former Khost Women’s Affairs Departmetn director to help in finding the women, but she refused. However, one of the owners of the booths who wished to go unnamed, said that all the booths were obtained based on fake names of women and then sold to men.
He said each booth was sold for around 200,000 to 300,000 afghanis and the money ended up in personal pockets. On the other hand, Khost municipality official Eng. Roshan Navid told Pajhwok that some booths in the park had been installed secretly overnight. He said that a number of provincial council members of Khost were also involved in the installation of booths and pocketing money.
Former Khost Women’s Affairs Director Dr. Malalai Wali gave contradictory statements on the matter and said the booths were installed during her service, but she was unaware who installed them. She said she was unaware where the revenue of the park went and believed the revenue was added to the government’s treasure. A provincial council member, Noor Shah Noorani, said that some of the booths in the park were installed at personal cost of some people who used them.
He said that it would have been better if the booths were given to women who were poor and who had lost their loved ones in war. “Many women come from different areas of the province to Khost city, but there is no any recrational area for them where they can sit for enjoyment…” he said. A number of residents of Khost also said that there was no place of recreation for women in the province, asking the government to provide such a facility.
They say the park specified for women is used by men due to corruption and negligence of local officials. Kamila Akbari, an inhabitant of the province, told Pajhwok that women arriving in the city from rural areas did not have a suitable place to sit and rest. She said if the park was devoted to women, it would provide a place for them to sit as well as provide job opportunities to some poor and needy women.
“If the park is given to women, it will be better because the shopkeepers will be women and they will be able to run their business freely and safely,” she added. Qismatullah, another resident of the province said that women did not feel safe while going to the park. “Unfortunately the park dedicated to women has no specific place for women to sit. The booths and toilets are used by men and the budget of the park is embezzled,” he said.
Another resident of the area, Attal Mangal, said that the park was handed over to the Women’s Affairs Departmetn but the department was careless about it and the park was still used by men. Many women from districts of the province travel to Khost city for various needs, but there is no any place for their recreation in the provincial capital.
Zainba Afghan, head of Milli Arman Society, a women’s association, who is recently appointed as deputy Khost governor, also complained about the mismanagement of the park. “This park is in the hands of some certain figures who get benefit of it, many deals had been exchanged on the park and that is the reason it is not given to women,” she said. Khost Urband Develompent Director Eng. Ibrahimullah Walizai said the revenue of 50 stalls in the park was being deposited in the government’s exchequer and the stalls were run by women according to a list they had obtained. This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP and Denmark.