Insights and Analysis

Analyzing Differences in Responses from Men and Women in Afghan Poll

November 16, 2011

By Barbara Rodriguez

Among the assets of the annual Survey of the Afghan People is the fact that the data is collected from men and women, and disaggregated as such. In this way, not only does the survey allow for a nuanced look at attitudes across geographic regions, ethnic groups, and age ranges, but it opens a window into the differences between women and men’s perceptions. Though the commonly held, often unspoken assumption is that views and experiences will coincide at the same level, it is the occasional gaps that most warrant our attention.


When asked to identify the biggest problem women face in their local area, 25 percent of all respondents, men and women, cited the lack of education and/or illiteracy as the most significant problem for women. Despite both men and women recognizing it as a problem, over the years fewer male respondents than female have been in favor of gender equality in education, as shown by this year’s results in which only 42 percent of men strongly agree that women and men should have equal opportunities in education, while 61 percent of women do.


Likewise, while the majority of respondents (62%) are in favor of women being allowed to work outside the home, the survey shows a significant difference between men and women’s attitudes regarding gender equality in employment. Indeed, 79 percent of female respondents say women should be allowed to work outside the home, but that opinion was only shared by 50 percent of men. It is also worth noting that this figure has been declining, for both men and women, over the past six years that the survey has been conducted.

Political Leadership and Participation

There was also divergence of opinions regarding equal representation among political leadership, with just 33 percent of male respondents and 61 percent of female respondents saying that men and women should have equal representation. There was little difference, however, between men and women’s objection to being represented by a woman in governance institutions from the local to the national level.

Regarding voting, and whether men should vote in place of women, 85 percent of respondents said that men should not vote in place of women. At the same time, there was a significant difference between men and women’s responses with over a third, or 34 percent, of male respondents saying that women should be advised by men before voting, as compared to less than a fifth, or 19 percent of women.

A few additional gaps covered in the survey include:

  • More men are supportive of the peace, reconciliation/negotiation and reintegration efforts than women.
  • Men are more likely than women to have contacted their MP for help in solving any of their personal or local problems.
  • As in the formal justice system, more men than women say local shura/jirga are accessible to them.

Identifying where differences between the sexes, or even gradations, exist such as these evident in the survey results, allows us to begin to take critical steps toward achieving gender equality.

Barbara Rodriguez is a program officer for The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program, based in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Women’s Empowerment Program develops women’s leadership, strengthens women’s organizations, increases women’s rights and ensures their personal security, and creates new political and economic opportunities for women across the Asia-Pacific region. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.


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