Community members in Kandahar look to expand use of social media for positive change
KANDAHAR - Activists in Kandahar are turning to social media to better coordinate and strengthen efforts to promote women’s rights.
To help further the effective and safe use of social media, Kandahar field office of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) hosted a discussion with 20 women representatives of civil society, local media, provincial council members, teachers and university students active on social media.
The participants agreed that social media campaigns and platforms are important means of advocacy for women to play their role in peace process. Balancing the pros with the cons -such as risks of harassment from trolls and others- they created a closed social media group dedicated to empowering women.
In southern Afghanistan, as in other parts of the country, women are largely left out of decision-making and peace processes. Gender-based violence is prevalent and women are not visible in many public domains because of family and other cultural restrictions. The limitations apply to social media as well with indicators showing that, despite the potential, very few women in the southern region are active in this sphere.
Adila Yadgar, one of the women’s rights activists, said that the use of social platforms among women is something new to them and many are not aware of its potential. She said that establishing a closed social media group while maintaining off-line coordination among the initial group members would help them embrace the positive aspects of using social media.
Another participant, Wazma Tokhi, highlighted the need for coordinated efforts to get campaigns on social media running with useful contents and meaningful discussions. She noted that a closed virtual group would be a safe place for women to openly express their views and strengthen their joint stance that they would like those in the leadership positions to hear.
“Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, societies will not achieve sustainable peace and development. Women had shown great resolve in peace processes, but their needs were overlooked in peace agreements, at conferences and other international forums, a situation that needs to be rectified,” Tokhi emphasized.
The virtual group’s members in Kandahar plan to involve women from Nimroz, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan in the future. The initiative envisages women not only sharing views and ideas on the current affairs, with focus on the ongoing peace talks, but also helping build a strong network among women in the Southern region.
The role of women in peace and security was highlighted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, during a visit to Helmand province earlier this month.
Yamamoto said, “Women’s participation in peace and security efforts contributes to more effective responses to complex situations. Women play a critical role in preventing conflict and sustaining peace. Building and sustaining peace needs women’s voices and leadership. Many studies show that when women are included in peace processes, peace agreements are more likely to be more durable.
There are different models of women’s inclusion and participation in peace processes. These range from direct representation, consultative mechanisms, commissions and high-level problem-solving workshops, to public decision-making. Furthermore, a peace process is more likely to be successful and lasting when a combination of modes of inclusion are introduced throughout the process. As the Governor stated, there is a strong need for the peace process to be sustainable. It is therefore important that we focus on women’s role in the peace process. Women’s participation is very important for the sustainability of peace.”
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 UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent 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.