Meaningful participation of Afghan women in peace the focus of ‘open days’ dialogues
KABUL - With a special focus in 2018 on the meaningful participation of women in peace initiatives, this year’s ‘Global Open Days’ events brought together hundreds of women from across Afghanistan with representatives from government offices, religious institutions, academia and civil society.
Starting in Kandahar, the series of meetings took place in 16 provinces during October and November, giving participants a platform to reaffirm the important role Afghan women can play in the prevention and resolution of conflict.
“Women form a major part of Afghan society, and therefore it’s critical that they have a say in the peace process,” said Kandahar Deputy Governor Haji Agha Lalai Dastagiri in opening the event in the southern province.
Other participants at the Kandahar symposium expressed concern that while women continue to be severely affected by Afghanistan’s armed conflict, their contribution to peace efforts, at local and national levels, is limited to symbolic roles.
Provincial Council member Sarena Faizi, speaking at Kandahar event, stressed that the participation of women in peace processes must go beyond minor representation.
“We need strong women leaders who can motivate us to contribute meaningfully to peace,” said Faizi. “Currently, our role is symbolic, and we need to change that.”
Each of the ‘open days’ events opened with a discussion around Afghanistan’s National Action Plan 1325, which delineates the meaningful participation of women, from all segments of society, in the country’s political processes. The discussions then continued with participants exchanging views on how they understand peace processes and local peace initiatives and how they see women’s meaningful engagement in those processes and initiatives.
In Gardez, the participants spoke about unity among women’s rights activists – and support from government officials, journalists, male human rights defenders and other members of society – as a way for women to ensure their voices are heard.
In Badakhshan, participants proposed the establishment of provincial women’s peace committees, while in Bamyan the participants agreed to form networks and associations to undertake activities on peace and to carry the agenda forward.
Those attending the event in Herat identified harmful traditions as impediments to the meaningful participation of women in Afghanistan’s public life and called for a fundamental change in mindset as a prerequisite for improving women participation in peace initiatives.
At the conclusion of each of the events across the country, participants made joint recommendations to improve women’s participation in peace initiatives through creating more education opportunities; raising awareness among communities about the value of their contributions; and increasing women’s participation at all levels of Afghanistan’s economic, social and political life.
Launched by the United Nations Security Council in 2010, ‘Global Open Days’ are special events held around the world not only to raise awareness about the role of women in maintaining and promoting peace through the prevention and resolution of conflict but also to support dialogue between United Nations officials and women’s organizations.
The 2018 ‘open days’ events in Afghanistan offered opportunities for Afghan women to engage formally with community leaders and with United Nations officials on how they perceive and understand their participation in peace processes and local peace initiatives. The events, all organized by UNAMA’s regional offices, documented the ideas of Afghan women on how to increase their participation in future peace initiatives.
UNAMA continues to work with advocacy groups and institutions, including provincial councils, religious leaders, youth groups, women’s groups and local media stations, to create platforms, using radio, social media and television, to enable Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.
At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussions and debates for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. 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.