Women’s participation in local government essential, panellists say at UN-backed event

6 Aug 2017

Women’s participation in local government essential, panellists say at UN-backed event

KABUL - Afghan women must be part of decision-making processes in local government for improved access to basic services, said panellists during a UN-backed symposium in Kabul last week.

The event brought together 15 women from across the central province to engage in a public debate with the director of Kabul’s Department of Women’s Affairs, a member of the Provincial Council and the Gender Advisor to Kabul’s Governor. The discussion was recorded for later broadcast through Kabul’s Radio Zafar to an audience estimated at 700,000 people.

Organized by the Kabul regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAM), the symposium created a platform for panellists to discuss the challenges women face in the central region and to debate the best strategies to address them.

Freshta Farah, head of the Department of Women’s Affairs, opened the discussion by outlining how provincial officials are trying to improve women’s access to services, including healthcare and education, and facilitate their employment in decision-making positions in the government.

“We are trying to provide a friendly environment for female staff,” said. “But in order for women to play a more effective role, there is a need to expand capacity-development programmes.”

Following opening remarks, members of the audience offered comments and asked questions, highlighting several issues, in particular the education system, which many audience members and panellists said should be improved, especially in remote areas of the province.

The event was the first in a series of similar debates planned for the province, with the objective being to enable women from remote districts to express their views to government officials and learn about what the government is doing to enable women to play a more prominent role in all aspects of Afghan life, from the social to the political.

Earlier this year, on 8 March, the UN in Afghanistan celebrated International Women’s Day, which in 2017 was marked globally under the theme of “Women in the Changing World of Work.” On that day, the UN made a universal call for women’s participation in all professions and highlighted their essential contributions in all spheres of work.

The Afghan government has pledged to increase the presence of women in government institutions to 30 per cent by the year 2020. Currently, women’s participation countrywide is far below this target. The UN family in Afghanistan is working diligently to help reverse inequality and support Afghan women and men expand opportunities for women.

“Women’s economic empowerment is a crucial precondition to effectively address poverty, inequality and violence against women,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, in a statement for Women’s Day. “While much progress has been made, many women continue to face economic and social barriers to meaningful employment as well discrimination in the workplace and in other areas of life.”

For real change, said the UN envoy, this essential agenda must be a priority. “Empowering Afghan women will allow them to share their voice and exert influence on matters of national concern, including in development, politics and most importantly peace,” he said.

The UN in Afghanistan supports the government’s stated efforts to strengthen the implementation of gender commitments in compliance with Afghanistan’s international obligations, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the recently adopted Global Agenda 2030, which includes the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

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