Stand Up For Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

September 30, 2011

Words by Lucy Arora

This year marks the tenth anniversary of both the 9/11 attacks and the US and UK-led inva- sion of Afghanistan, leading to much reflection as to how the world has been transformed in the last ten years. An often neglected story however, is that of Afghan women who have suffered through three decades of conflict and seen realisation of their rights fluctuate each time power changed hands. As the interna- tional community begins to discuss transition out of Afghanistan, women’s hard won gains and still fragile rights must not become a bar- gaining chip, to be traded away in the name of peace.

In the past ten years, progress has been made, especially in the areas of women’s edu- cation and political participation, the right to work, and freedom of movement outside the home. The right to girls’ education was included in the constitution after intensive lob- bying by the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN). At the moment 2.7 million girls are registered for school and 37% of 12-16 year old girls can read. Currently, there are 69 female MPs and a 25% female quota is enforced across national, provincial and local political institu- tions. As Fauzia Kufi MP says, women “want to move forward…they want to participate. They want to be involved.

On 5th December, a conference will be held in Germany to make plans for Afghanistan’s future. Delegations from 90 countries and organisations will attend but it is uncertain how many, if any, Afghan women will attend. Women have been sidelined from peace talks at community, national and international levels. Currently, Afghanistan’s High Peace Council contains only 9 women out of 70 indi- viduals. On each of the new provincial peace councils set up by the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme, there are no more than three female participants.

Conditions for involvement in peace nego- tiations are renunciation of violence and rejection of Al Qaeda ties, but there are no spe- cific requirements that participating parties must commit to the realisation of women’s rights. Groups like the Taliban still target girls’ schools and intervene to discourage women from seeking employment.

There are fears the international commu- nity gives lessened importance to the rights of Afghan women in its hurry to reach a political deal. In July 2011, an anonymous senior official at the US Agency for International Development was quoted as saying “gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities. There’s no way we can be suc- cessful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our ruck- sack were taking us down.” Women’s rights are not ‘pet rocks.’ They are human rights. Any process on the future of Afghanistan must be driven by the needs of all Afghans, including women.

Stand up in solidarity with Afghan women:

•   After 7 October, wear a green scarf and post a picture onto the photo wall at Channel 16: No women, no peace. will be using green scarves as a symbol of solidarity.

•   Organise or take part in a candlelit vigil on 31st October. Send through pictures of vigils and other events to: nowomennopeace@gaps-, @nowomennopeace) or upload them to our Facebook page. 31st October is the anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325, which accepted that conflict has different impacts on women and men and the impor- tance of involving them in peace processes.

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