UN supports women’s economic empowerment initiative in Afghanistan’s west
HERAT - Promoting women’s access to government services and hiring more women into civil service positions were among the topics discussed in a UN-backed event set up to focus on empowering thousands of women in remote areas of Afghanistan’s western province of Herat.
The symposium, organized by the regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) last week, brought together representatives from advocacy groups, the provincial council, local media outlets and the governor’s office to strategize on ways to empower Afghan women through improved support for their education and presence in civil service positions.
Mahbooba Jamishidi, head of Herat’s Department of Women’s Affairs, opened the meeting by outlining the challenges women face across the province, and the opportunities they could have with appropriate support from government offices and civil society groups.
“We have taken a progressive position on women working in government sectors, but in order for women to play a more effective role, there is a need to expand capacity-development programmes as well as to adopt more gender-sensitive strategies,” she said.
Following opening remarks, participants conducted a detailed assessment of women’s needs and priorities across Herat, a mostly rural and agricultural province that is Afghanistan’s primary trade gateway to Iran. Herat lies on old trade routes, with roads running to the bordering countries of Iran to the west and Turkmenistan to the north.
Nasir Ahamad Ahmadi, the head of human resources in the governor’s office, spoke at the symposium about the critical need to support women contributing to the province’s socio-economic development.
“It is important to submit the findings of the discussed assessment on women’s needs and priorities across different sectors in Herat to Afghan and international stakeholders so that the findings are considered in future policies, planning and programming at national and subnational levels,” he said.
The lively discussion was later broadcast by television and radio to an audience estimated at 400,000 people in and around Herat city.
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 and protect them from harm. 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 programme 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 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.