Toward a safer workplace and equal opportunities for western Afghan women

23 Jan 2018

Toward a safer workplace and equal opportunities for western Afghan women

HERAT - Improving the conditions of working Afghan women by ensuring equal opportunity and treatment is the objective of a newly appointed gender specialist in the office the governor in the western province of Herat.

During several events organized last year by the Herat regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), including radio and television programmes, participants called for the creation of a dedicated position in the provincial government to protect working women and ensure their safety.

Responding to the mounting concern, the governor’s office appointed a gender specialist, Wahida Azizi, and tasked her with addressing the challenges faced by working women, including unequal opportunities, discrimination, abuse and harassment.

“My top priorities in 2018 are raising awareness about women’s issues and developing working women’s capacity,” said Azizi. “I plan to establish a gender team in every government entity in the province.”

Since her appointment five months ago, Azizi, age 28, has been busy laying the foundations for her work, holding meetings with different departments and enlisting the support of provincial authorities, employees and other stakeholders.

Women in Afghanistan’s western region, as in many other parts of the country, face harmful traditional practices that make it less likely for them to enjoy their fundamental human rights.

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, commits member states, including Afghanistan, to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms.

Azizi, prior to her new position, was a regular advocate at several UN-backed events, including in radio and television discussions promoting the rights of women at home and in the workplace. In a recent interview with the UN at her office in Herat, she says much more remains to be done by her office, and by others, to make workplaces in Herat more equitable for women.

“We have lots of work to do in the area of women’s empowerment, in eliminating violence against women and in gender-mainstreaming in government policies and strategies,” she said, underlining the need for broad community involvement, in the province and across the western region, to keep positive momentum on these initiatives.

The events organized by UNAMA in the western region last year were part of the mission’s country-wide outreach programme to engage communities on issues that matter to them. At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussion and debate 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.

Herat, known for its saffron production, lies on old trade routes and shares a border with Iran to the west and Turkmenistan to the north. It has an estimated population of nearly two million, second only to Kabul province.

UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, 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.