Women as pioneers of peace – Participants at Herat event adopt declaration demanding role in Afghan peace efforts

13 Jan 2020

Women as pioneers of peace – Participants at Herat event adopt declaration demanding role in Afghan peace efforts

HERAT – Under the header of ‘Women as pioneers for peace’, attendees at a meeting on the role of women in peace adopted a declaration calling for the substantive involvement and participation of women in bringing peace to Afghanistan.

The day-long UN-backed event held in Herat, the capital of the western province, brought together around 100 women activists, government leaders and civil society from across the region, including Badghis, Ghor, Farah and Herat. The primary focus of discussions centred on recommendations made by more than 1,000 women including from Badghis, Ghor, Farah and Herat, following a year-long of consultations on peace and security.

Participants, who included Herat Governor, Abdul Quayom Rahimi and his Deputy, Monesa Hassanzadeh, reaffirmed a call for women to take centre stage and ensure that their role and rights are adequately reflected and safeguarded in peace efforts, as well as any subsequent agreement.

“Without women in the peace process, there is no peace,” Rahimi told the participants.

Member of Parliament and participant, Massouda Karokhi, urged women to be courageous. “I call upon all women not to miss this chance and to stand up in order to participate in the peace process, be courageous." She described to participants how she was inspired by the role played by women in Rwanda in restoring peace following the 1994 genocide in that country. “I recently watched a documentary on Rwanda where many international crimes happened during the civil war resulting in the loss of men to many families. Many peace initiatives were led by small groups of women at the local level who decided to take matters into their hand, “ narrated, Kaukhi, a former teacher and social volunteer during the Taliban era.

Another participant, Qandi Gul Seddiqi, a women representative from Badghis, said that the need to involve women in peace and other public processes should go beyond symbolism, but must be seen as beneficial to the whole society. “The role of women in political processes, including peace, needs to be meaningful, not symbolic,” stated Seddiqi.

Despite the disproportionate impact of the conflict on women, and evidence indicating that women are powerful actors in sustaining peace in their communities and nations, their inclusion in peace negotiations and political processes remains minimal. 

In 2000, the UN adopted Security Council Resolution 1325, which specifically brought women’s experiences of conflict into the international peace and security agenda. It called for the vital role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction.

Afghanistan has made solid progress through legislation to safeguard the rights of women, including their participation in public and democratic processes. Nonetheless, a lot remains to be done in addressing many structural barriers that continue to hinder women, such as poverty, marginalization and inequality, especially for rural women.

The lively discussions focused on the critical importance of women taking the lead in shaping their future, protecting the gains made over the past 19 years and having a greater stake in the country’s development agenda. Other issues included the need to build the capacity for women, access to leadership positions in public institutions, and stronger and coordinated efforts among women organizations.

In closing the event, participants unanimously adopted a final declaration comprising thirteen articles and calls for the meaningful participation of women in all decision-making processes related to peace, reconciliation, reintegration and security; the establishment of a consultation mechanism to accompany the peace process; and for the peace process to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned building on democratic, civil and human rights values. 

Other recommendations included developing an action plan to promote the Women as Pioneers of Peace Resolution, outlining concrete steps for implementation and create a women’s network for peace to sustain consultation efforts in the Western Region and subsequently at the national level.

Organized by UNAMA regional office in Herat as part of the Mission’s Local Peace Initiative programme, the event which was covered by local media and social media platforms was part of a countrywide outreach programme aimed at creating platforms – using radio, television and social media – for local communities to engage in dialogue on pressing issues.

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.