Preserving hard-fought women’s rights a must, say Bamyan civic leaders
BAMYAN - The gains made in advancing and protecting the rights of women in Afghanistan must be preserved at all costs, said panellists during a UNAMA-backed forum in the central province of Bamyan.
More than 40 representatives from civil society, women’s rights groups and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) came together in Bamyan’s capital to take stock of achievements made by Afghan women and to emphasize the crucial need to protect those gains.
Echoing the current concerns among many citizens regarding possible compromises on the gains made over the past 18 years in the name of peace, panellists stressed the critical importance of women directly participating in Afghanistan’s social and economic development agenda, and in any peace talks.
“Afghan women have struggled for years to make a place for themselves in society,” said Hakima Alizada, a provincial AIHRC official. “The constitution of Afghanistan protects and promotes women’s rights and their participation in society.”
Alizada went on to describe how the whole of society, not just women alone, benefits from the contribution and meaningful participation of Afghan women in economic activities, in political life and in other decision-making processes at local and national levels.
Afghanistan has come a long way in improving the rights of women. Through policies such as the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, the Afghan Government has taken steps to boost women’s participation in civic activities and other aspects of the country’s public life.
Nonetheless, many factors continue to undermine the rights of women in Bamyan, as in other parts of the country. Poverty, violence, illiteracy, negative stereotypes and harmful traditional practices hinder women’s progress and deprive them of full self-determination. In rural areas, even fewer women participate in Afghanistan’s political life or benefit from its public policies; most remain marginalized, impoverished and isolated.
Renowned for its archaeological monuments and known for its communities’ moderate views on women’s participation in public life, Bamyan has the potential to become one of Afghanistan’s standout provinces for women’s empowerment.
For panel participant Amina Hassanpoor, a Bamyan activist, education for both men and women is the key to empowering women and changing negative stereotypes toward them and their role in society. “Education is the most sustainable means of maximizing the potential of Afghan women,” she said.
In making their recommendations, participants called for additional practical empowerment measures, such as the pledge by the Afghan Government to increase by the year 2020 the presence of women in government institutions to 30 per cent. Participants also called for more training and awareness-raising programmes on women’s rights.
Organized by UNAMA’s Bamyan regional office, the discussion was part of a countrywide outreach programme aimed at creating platforms – using radio, television and social media – for local communities to engage in dialogue on pressing issues.
The UN is committed to supporting the Afghan Government’s efforts and is working with a variety of institutions and actors to promote gender equality and non-discrimination as well to support local programmes aimed at expanding education and employment opportunities for women. Research has shown that providing women with equal opportunities empowers not only women and their families, but also entire communities and economies.