Bamyan leaders strategize on women’s economic and political empowerment
BAMYAN - Empowerment of Afghan women and their increased participation in the country’s economic and political development was at the centre of a lively UN-backed radio discussion in central Bamyan province.
Panellists gathered in Bamyan’s capital city for the recent event, part of a series of similar debates in the central highlands region backed by the Bamyan regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
In opening remarks, Ms. Hawagul Rezai, an official from Bamyan’s Department of Women’s Affairs, noted that while 17 per cent of government employees in Bamyan are women, only a handful of them are in provincial managerial positions.
“These statistics are not acceptable,” she said, emphasizing that men in authority must empower women through appropriate policies.
Ms. Sakina Khawari, a religious scholar and also a panellist, explained during the discussion that Islamic teachings do not restrict women’s work outside the home. She also said that Islamic scholars are obliged to raise awareness about the need to eliminate harmful traditional practices.
Bamyan, famous for its archaeological monuments, has a reputation for its moderate view of women’s social participation. But unchecked harmful practices and lack of awareness about women’s rights have hindered the province’s potential to be a standout champion for women’s empowerment.
“Harmful traditional behaviour toward women must be changed to allow active participation of women in all sectors of society,” said Sughra Attayee, a women’s rights activist. “Doing so will result in progress in Afghanistan.”
Ms. Attayee advised that Bamyan women should build their knowledge and confidence toward active participation in public life, and said that men should trust them and encourage them, creating a positive environment for women’s active contribution.
This discussion was recorded for later broadcast through Radio Bamyan to an audience estimated at 50,000 people in and around the province’s capital.
Earlier this year, on 8 March, the UN marked International Women’s Day under the theme of ‘Women in the Changing World of Work,’ and made a call for women’s participation in all professions, highlighting their essential contributions in all spheres of work.
Afghanistan has made progress toward equal workplace participation, with the government developing measures to advance women’s participation. The Afghan government has pledged to increase the presence of women in government institutions to 30 per cent by the year 2020. Currently, however, women’s participation countrywide is far below this target.
On Women’s Day, the UN welcomed the government’s launch of the economic empowerment program for women as a key step forward to opening more doors for women’s participation at all levels, and encouraged the government to continue to prioritize investment in education, healthcare and business financing for Afghan women.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent national and international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.