Women’s rights spotlighted at UN-backed events in Afghanistan’s northeast

3 Oct 2018

Women’s rights spotlighted at UN-backed events in Afghanistan’s northeast

KUNDUZ - Government officials, civil society members, teachers, activists and other community leaders from Afghanistan’s northeast gathered at UN-backed events in Kunduz and Takhar to discuss recent efforts to improve protections for women’s rights.

Some 50 community leaders attended symposia in Kunduz and Takhar to consider practical ways to work together, at the local level, to empower Afghan women in all areas, from the social to the political, and enable them to enjoy their fundamental rights.

The community leaders discussed the effectiveness of formal mechanisms, including Afghan law, to prevent and address sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and talked about the importance of women’s participation in the upcoming elections.

In her opening remarks at the Kunduz event, Fawzia Yaftali, a member of the provincial council, framed the discussion by outlining how women’s rights intersect with development. “Violence against women and harassment are obstacles to development,” she stressed.

Other speakers at the events in Takhar and Kunduz offered similar observations, underlining the importance of bolstering advocacy and acting on initiatives to advance the implementation of Afghanistan’s Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law and National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan.

Samira Mohammadi, a university student from Kunduz, pointed to street harassment as a serious problem. “Every day when moving from my home I have to listen to frightening and offensive words of boys on the streets until I arrive at my destination,” she said.

Frowzan, a university student who participated in the Takhar event, also spoke about harassment. “Even failure at university is not as terrible for us as harassment,” she said.

“Ending harassment requires widespread public awareness and the implementation of related laws,” said Malalai Sad, a participant at the Kunduz event.

At both events, which were organized by UNAMA’s Kunduz regional office, women and men expressed concern about these and other issues, including the low levels of women’s participation in public life in the northeast. Many said they want to see improvement in the number of women participating in the upcoming elections and cited the creation of job opportunities and justice for victims of violence as priorities.

Participants at both events made key recommendations, including addressing obstacles that hinder women’s meaningful participation in public life, such as security, violence and discrimination, and raising awareness across the nation about the importance of women’s rights.

The events were covered by media outlets Radio Roshani and Radio Raihan, with the broadcasts airing later to audiences estimated at 400,000 people in and around the provincial capitals of both provinces.

The northeast events are among many other similar programmes and initiatives resulting from UNAMA reaching out to a range of groups across the country to create spaces, both physical and on social media, for them to come together and discuss issues that are of critical importance to them, and to strategize on the best way forward.

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 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.

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.