Strategies to advance women’s rights spotlighted at Panjshir symposium

2 Aug 2018

Strategies to advance women’s rights spotlighted at Panjshir symposium

BAZARAK - More effective coordination is needed to protect and advance women’s rights in Afghanistan, said government officials, rights activists and other community leaders gathered at a UN-backed symposium in Panjshir.

The event brought together more than 30 provincial leaders to Bazarak, the capital of the central province, to strategize on practical steps toward better coordination on eliminating violence against women.

Khatera Shikhani, director of the province’s Department of Women’s Affairs, opened the discussion by calling attention to the importance of all provincial departments collaborating with each other and with local communities to empower women.

“The Department of Women’s Affairs has been conducting campaigns to increase coordination among various women’s rights groups,” said Shikhani, who noted that Panjshir women have been reluctant to bring cases of violence against them to legal and judicial institutions.

“We must have a cohesive approach and strong coordination in our efforts across government departments, civil society groups and religious leadership,” Shikhani stressed.

Zarifa Razaee, a prosecutor working in Panjshir, offered similar observations, and cited positive steps toward increasing the number of female staff members in the province’s main prosecution office and in the districts.

“Lack of female defense attorneys and minimal public awareness about women’s fundamental rights are the two main challenges preventing women from enjoying their full rights,” Razaee said.

Maulavi Fazal Ahmad, deputy head of the province’s Hajj and Religious Affairs Department, explained how public outreach about key social issues is one of the department’s priorities.

“We now have a mobile team that visits mosques, villages and public gatherings with an agenda of speaking out against forced marriage and violence against women, and encouraging girls’ education,” he said. “We intend to multiply our efforts to increase public awareness about women’s rights from the Islamic perspective and as protected in the constitution of Afghanistan.”

At the end of the symposium, following lively discussion, the participants agreed that, going forward, coordination among groups working for the promotion of women’s rights as well as raising awareness about harmful traditional practices would be the most effective steps toward addressing violence against women in the province.

Panjshir is one of the six provinces in Afghanistan’s central region. A mountainous and sparsely populated province whose residents mostly live in rural communities, Panjshir is surrounded by Baghlan and Takhar to the north, Badakhshan and Nuristan to the east, Laghman and Kapisa to the south, and Parwan to the west.

The Panjshir event was supported by UNAMA’s central regional office as part of a countrywide outreach programme aimed at creating platforms – using radio, television and social media – where Afghans can engage in dialogue and discuss critical issues affecting their communities.

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 that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent national and 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.