Nimroz leaders strategize on women’s economic empowerment
ZARANJ - Empowerment of Afghan women and their increased participation in the country’s economic and political development was at the centre of a lively UN-backed event in held in Zaranj, the capital of the southern province of Nimroz.
Women’s rights groups, along with local government officials, attended the event, which was organized by the Kandahar regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Some 65 per cent of participants were women, including representatives from civil society and the provincial council.
During the discussion, the participants outlined the progress made on the commitments of the local government to empower women economically, and discussed challenges on the way forward, including coordination between government and the private sector.
In Nimroz, women entrepreneurs are typically engaged in the production of handcrafts and agricultural products. Those in attendance suggested developing dedicated marketplaces, specifically for women, so they can expand their trade opportunities with these goods.
“Women’s economic empowerment should be a pillar in the promotion of democratic values,” said Ms Parveen Andar, a local entrepreneur. “We are looking to establish a women’s marketplace in Zaranj to provide opportunities for women to engage in small business activities.”
Another local entrepreneur, Ms Sheher Bano, emphasized the importance of expanding training opportunities for women so they have the potential to earn a living and support their families as well as contribute to the local economy.
Nimroz is located in the southwest of the country’s southern region, bordering Iran to the west and Pakistan to the south. The mostly rural province depends, to a large extent, on international trade, with agriculture being central to the province’s economy.
In contrast to other provinces in the south, women in Nimroz are in a relatively good position when it comes to access to education, healthcare and vocational opportunities. Women in Nimroz are often considered in decision-making processes in their families, in their communities and in the workplace.
Participants at the event agreed that for women in the province to be more active in the province’s economic development, improved coordination between civil society and government is essential, and that having more women engaged in local business ventures would stimulate the local economy.
Earlier this year, on 8 March, the UN marked International Women’s Day under the theme of ‘Women in the Changing World of Work,’ and made a call for women’s participation in all professions, highlighting their essential contributions in all spheres of work.
Afghanistan has made progress toward equal workplace participation, with the government developing measures to advance women’s participation. The Afghan government has pledged to increase the presence of women in government institutions to 30 per cent by the year 2020. Currently, however, women’s participation countrywide is far below this target.
On Women’s Day, the UN welcomed the government’s launch of the economic empowerment program for women as a key step forward to opening more doors for women’s participation at all levels, and encouraged the government to continue to prioritize investment in education, healthcare and business financing for Afghan women.
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.