Women’s essential role in peace spotlighted at UN-backed symposium in Afghanistan’s east
JALALABAD - The critical importance of Afghan women’s meaningful participation in peace efforts, locally and nationally, was the focus of a recent UN-backed symposium in Afghanistan’s eastern region.
The event, organized by UNAMA’s Jalalabad regional office, drew 20 women from the four provinces in Afghanistan’s eastern region – Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman and Nuristan – to discuss ways to empower women and strengthen their involvement in peace efforts.
Those present expressed concern that while women continue to be severely affected by Afghanistan’s armed conflict, their contributions to peace efforts are limited to symbolic roles. They identified harmful traditions as the primary impediment to their participation in Afghanistan’s public life and called for fundamental change.
Working in groups, the participants each described areas where they have intervened to reduce conflict or address harmful traditions, and they said that women must be involved in the design of any peace framework to ensure that women’s rights are fully protected.
Koko Gul, a participant from the Alishang district of Laghman, spoke about several positive developments in her community. “One of my relatives stopped fighting, in part because of what I was doing to raise awareness about peace and reconciliation,” she said.
Another Laghman participant, Khairun Nisa, who is from the province’s Dowlatsha district, described a time when women could not visit the market due to social constraints. “Today, many women go to the market,” she said. “It’s a good development, but it was not easy to break through the harmful traditional practices that prevent women from accessing public places.”
Nisa urged those in attendance to do their best to strengthen women’s role in society. “Every woman can play a vital role in promoting women’s rights,” she stressed.
In the lively discussion that followed, participants indicated that involving women in resolving conflict increases the probability that violence will end. Overall, they said, women can play a significant role at the grassroots level, and many recounted similar stories of how they have intervened with positive effect.
At the conclusion of the event, the participants made several recommendations, including creating opportunities for education; raising awareness about the value of their contributions in decision-making processes; and increasing their options at all levels of Afghanistan’s economic, social and political life.
The women furthermore stressed the need for improved coordination among civil society, government and international institutions working toward peace, and highlighted the importance of fully institutionalizing gender equality through quotas at local and national levels.
UNAMA continues to work with advocacy groups and institutions, including provincial councils, religious leaders, youth groups, women’s groups and local media stations, to create platforms – using radio, social media and television – to enable Afghans to engage on pressing issues affecting their communities.
At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussions and debates 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 on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. 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.