Herat leaders discuss challenges, way forward in women’s rights efforts

17 May 2018

Herat leaders discuss challenges, way forward in women’s rights efforts

HERAT - Government officials at a UN-backed symposium in Herat’s Guzara district gathered with activists, religious scholars and other community leaders to discuss recent efforts in the western province to improve protections for women’s rights.

Some 30 people attended the one-day event to consider practical ways to work together, at the district level, to empower Afghan women at all levels of society, from the social to the political, and enable them to enjoy their fundamental rights.

They discussed the effectiveness of formal mechanisms, including Afghan law and Islamic values, to prevent and address sexual harassment, and talked about the importance of women’s participation as voters, candidates and electoral officials in the upcoming polls.

“This event is important because it brings women activists and mullahs together to accelerate their efforts in making people aware of women’s rights in accordance with Islam and Afghanistan’s laws,” said Sayed Aqa Khatibzada, a religious scholar who participated in the event.

Khatibzada went on to say that the symposium allowed for a lively discussion on the issue of women’s active participation in Afghan social life, and on what he said was “the obligation of everyone” to work to eradicate sexual harassment and discrimination against women.

In her comments during the event, Sima Alizayee, a women’s rights activist, highlighted the importance of raising awareness about eliminating violence against women at the district level and underlined the effectiveness of legislative measures put in place to address that violence.

“It is very promising to see respected religious scholars supporting women’s rights and their participation in Afghan society, in peace processes and in the upcoming elections,” she said. “But we also need to consider long-term measures that can be achieved via legislation.”

The daylong event, facilitated by UNAMA's Herat regional office, was one of UNAMA’s many outreach activities set up to enable community leaders to come together and look into practical ways not only to advance the participation of women in Afghanistan’s social and political life, but also to increase their participation in business and trade.

The western province of Herat lies on old trade routes on the west side of Afghanistan, with roads running from the province to the bordering countries of Iran to the west and Turkmenistan to the north. The mostly rural and agricultural province is Afghanistan’s primary trade gateway to Iran.

UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.

UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.