Women’s rights crucial to countering extremism, say participants at UN event

23 Sep 2016

Women’s rights crucial to countering extremism, say participants at UN event

HERAT - Achieving gender parity, especially in education, is one of the most crucial tools in the fight against radicalization and extremism, said participants at a UN-backed ‘Global Open Days’ event in the provincial capital of Herat.

More than 30 civil society representatives, women’s rights activists, academics, religious scholars and government officials discussed the issue of violent extremism and women’s rights in Afghanistan’s third largest city.

“This event offers opportunities to promote dialogue on the linkages between violent extremism and women’s rights in Afghanistan,” said Khalil Osman, the head of the Herat regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), during opening remarks.

Divided into working groups, the event’s participants engaged in lively debate about the causes of violent extremism, concluding that the impact of extremism on women’s rights in Herat has a negative impact on a broad spectrum of rights.

“Insecurity, which is a direct result of violent extremism, has prevented many women and girls from being able to attend classes freely, including vocational classes,” said Susan Behboodzadah, a women’s rights activist in the province.

“In some circumstances, extremists have directly targeted educational institutions, especially for female education, threatening and physically attacking personnel and female students as well as educational facilities and buildings, causing fear among parents so that girls above a certain age are prevented from attending classes,” she added.

Hassina Nikzad, the head of Afghan Women’s Network, pointed out that gender inequality in the province leads to forced marriage and early motherhood, and added that a many people in Herat remain illiterate and thus prone to radicalization.

Participants noted that although men in Herat tend to be the most prone to radicalization, women, many of whom are illiterate and poor, also have extremist views. They collectively recommended improving awareness about gender equality and educating both boys and girls.

A radio broadcast of the event is expected to be aired on Ava, a radio station that reaches an audience estimated at 300,000 people in Herat city and the surrounding areas.

The Global Open Days events are designed to raise awareness about the role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict, and to stress the importance of women’s participation in maintaining and promoting peace. Open Days were launched in 2010 on the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports 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.