International Women’s Day marked at events across Afghanistan
KABUL - Afghanistan celebrated International Women’s Day on 8 March with events held across the nation focused on empowering women and girls in all areas of Afghan life.
Speakers highlighted the challenges faced by Afghan women, but also the key role they have in helping to achieve a lasting and permanent peace in Afghanistan. Celebrations, which advocated for women’s rights, were marked as well by colorful dress, music, dance and poetry readings.
“Women are the main driving force working to create a peaceful environment, and they should be given all the rights they need to live in dignity,” said Rula Ghani, the ‘first lady’ of Afghanistan, speaking to a Herat gathering of some 400 officials, activists, women and girls.
In northern Afghanistan, known for its love of poetry, Dr. Sara Mohammadi, a Kunduz University professor, inspired a gathering with poignant words: “Humanity is a bird with two wings, one of man and one of women,” she said. “With one wing alone, this bird cannot fly.”
Women activists in the southern Kandahar province spoke out against forced marriage and gender-based violence, while also asking that women be able to play a greater role in the security field, including as police officers and judges.
In Kunar celebrations focused on education for women, with participants calling for more opportunities for women to study at university, such as women-only classes or campuses. Women were also encouraged to register to vote in upcoming provincial and district council elections. In Laghman, at a celebration with over 200 participants, the Provincial Governor announced that funding had been secured for a women's market in the province.
In Kabul, the United Nations in Afghanistan celebrated International Women’s Day under the UN’s international theme for 2017: “Women in the Changing World of Work.”
Afghanistan has made significant progress in this area in the past 15 years, with the government developing measures to advance women’s participation in public life.
“Women’s economic empowerment is a crucial precondition to effectively address poverty, inequality and violence against women,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
“Empowering Afghan women will allow them to share their voice and exert influence on matters of national concern, including in development, politics and most importantly peace,” he said.
Women speaking across Afghanistan also stressed the need for enhanced vocational training and education opportunities to position Afghan women to take key roles in professional careers. Even with an education, however, the road leading to full participation in Afghan society winds up a steep mountain, speakers insisted.
“Despite literacy in Herat being among the highest rates in the country, women are yet to occupy key positions in the provincial government,” said Kamran Alizai, the chair of the Herat’s Provincial Council. “We need to change the outlook of everyone, especially men.”
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.