Peace with Justice for the Women of Afghanistan
KABUL - The situation for women in Afghanistan is very mixed. There’s a lot to point to institutionally in terms of what has been accomplished in the last five years.
The National Action Plan for Women and the Afghanistan National Development Strategy contain specific provisions on gender equality.At the same time what we see on the ground in reality, especially in the regions which are marked by an increase in conflict, do not match the progress on paper, and the gap there is precisely where the challenges are.
We see with ever growing concern a return to the public adherence to acceptances of violence against women, where more and more public shows of violence against women are not being addressed appropriately or even with the legal means that are in existence. Not only do the laws in place need to be enforced for protections to women but on the response side there needs to be a more appropriate and a higher level of services to address women.
When acid is thrown in the faces of schoolgirls in Kandahar, when policewomen are attacked and assassinated, when school teachers who are women and men who teach in schools that provide education to girls; all are being attacked or being served night letters, this is not by any means or any standards acceptable. Not only is the adherence to law not being followed, but by and large there is a creeping but ever present growth in violence against women that needs to be addressed.
UNIFEM’s role is always one of bridging and one of support to the women of Afghanistan. By bridging UNIFEM is in a key position to be able to bring together the different stakeholders, women in the grassroots sector, civil society, people in Government and certainly people in the United Nations and international community.
Since the fall of the Taliban we’re very concerned with the current political situation as we face the upcoming elections in 2009 and 2010 and there’s more of a need for political processes to be in place. The question that we are asking, because the women are asking, is what burdens will the negotiations with the Taliban bring to women in Afghanistan? It can not be on the backs of women in Afghanistan that negotiations for peace are made.
In Afghanistan there’s a very strong and active movement on behalf of peace by women. On 8 March, International Women’s Day, there’s a groundswell of support for action where women will be praying for peace with justice in public spaces. This has never happened before where women will be outside saying they demand peace and they demand peace with justice. This is one indication of many where women are coming together and saying: we need our voices heard, we need to participate in the decision making, hear us because we are here and there’s no future without women’s involvement.
By Wenny Kusuma, Country Director, UNIFEM Afghanistan