Meaningful participation of Afghan women in peace initiatives the focus of ‘open days’ events

29 Sep 2018

Meaningful participation of Afghan women in peace initiatives the focus of ‘open days’ events

KANDAHAR - With a special focus in 2018 on the meaningful participation of women in peace initiatives, this year’s nationwide ‘Global Open Days’ events commenced in Afghanistan with a UN-backed symposium in Kandahar.

The Kandahar event is the first in a series that will take place across the country in coming weeks, bringing together hundreds of women with representatives from government offices, religious institutions, academia and civil society.

“Women form a major part of the 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 the symposium, 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.”

Thursday’s event brought together government officials, women’s rights advocates, university professors, civil society members and other community leaders who reaffirmed the important role Afghan women can play in the prevention and resolution of conflict.

At the conclusion, participants made joint recommendations to improve women’s participation in peace processes, including through creating more opportunities for their education; raising awareness among communities about the value of their contributions in decision-making processes; and increasing their options at all levels of Afghan 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 are expected to offer 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, will be held with a view to documenting the ideas of Afghan women on how to increase their participation in future peace initiatives. Events are currently scheduled to take place in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Bamyan, Gardez, Herat, Jalalabad, Kunduz and Mazar.

Culminating in a national dialogue event scheduled for November in the nation’s capital, the consultations are expected to help inform policy discussions aimed at increasing Afghan women’s meaningful participation in decision-making related to peace efforts.

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.