Afghanistan– General Information
Afghanistanis addressing development and striving to secure a lasting and sustainable peace. The peace and reconstruction process that was initiated with the establishment of a new government in Afghanistan provides the Afghans and the international community with an opportunity to draw on lessons learnt from within their own country and to benefit from experiences drawn from other post-conflict areas. Dr. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, a female Afghan intellectual, contends that Afghanistan’s economic marginalisation, social disorder and political dislocation can be conceptualised as deficiencies that women can manoeuvre to their advantage. She states that under the current economic conditions, women could use this opportunity to redefine their roles in the family and community in ways that improve their lives and contribute to the rehabilitation of the nation.
One of the key opportunities that needs to be seized, is the pursuit of a gender-sensitive reconstruction process. If women are to assume their rightful place alongside men, mechanisms need to be put in place that take full account of the rights of both men and women. Instruments that are binding need to be drawn on in legal, judicial and civic reform to prevent discrimination against women in Afghanistan. United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325 in particular, emphasises the importance of women’s full participation in the rebuilding of their countries and highlights the unique contribution that women can make to peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts. Yet, gender is still not fully integrated into the reconstruction process. Although promoting gender considerations and gender awareness, and increasing women’s participation, is both challenging and complicated in the Afghan context, it is important for the promotion of sustainable development and a just and lasting peace. Gender inequality and women’s exclusion hinders progress by denying one half of the population equal opportunities.
Even though change takes time, Afghanistan can cite some progress in the area of women’s rights over the past three and a half years. The appointment of the new government has resulted in positive changes for women, for example, the mandatory wearing of the burqua was abolished and two women were appointed into the cabinet of ministers with portfolios for Women’s Affairs and Health. The new Afghan Constitution adopted at the beginning of 2004 allows two seats in each province for women. Of more than 8 million Afghans who voted in the presidential poll of October 2004, more than 40 percent were female. During the democratic elections in Afghanistan, there was a woman among 16 presidential candidates. Yet, discrimination against, and abuse of women continues. For example, human rights abuses against women such as domestic violence and forced marriages are all too common. Many women in the country suffer from poor access to legal resources and exclusion from public life. Girls are still prevented from attending school due to traditions that keep them at home. Childhood and early marriages are still prevalent –some of which are entered into as a means of resolving disputes.
It is within this context that International Alert’s Gender and Peacebuilding Programme collaborated with the Afghan Civil Society Forum to organise and deliver the first ever Afghan consultation on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (November – December 2004).
The capacity building workshop on Women, Peace and Security conceptualised by International Alert, organised by the Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF) and facilitated by ACSF and International Alert is part of the Gender Peace Audit project of Alert’s Gender and Peacebuilding programme. It was the fifth and final consultation in the series on resolution 1325. Preceding national consultations were held in Nepal and Nigeria in 2002. Regional consultations were held in the Caucasus (2002) and in South Asia (2003). These consultations aim to bridge the gap between global policy and the practical realities faced by women at the local, national and regional levels in post-conflict contexts.
The outcomes of these consultations are disseminated to global, regional and national policy makers for the development and refinement of international policies and practices relating to women, peace and security through the Global Policy Advocacy project of Alert’s Gender and Peacebuilding Programme. The consultations generate and contribute to local, national and regional activities and strategies to address issues and concerns that affect women’s peace and security.
This consultation aimed to bring together women, men and youth from different provinces of Afghanistan to discuss peace and security issues affecting women within the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and with reference to the (CEDAW) – The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (see Appendices for the texts of these two documents). The workshop aimed to focus on three key themes. These were:
- Afghan perspectives of the conflict with a focus on women’s perspectives
- Priority issues that need addressing in order to promote peace and security, and
- Key instruments that women could use to ensure their inclusion in the reconstruction process
During the consultation, participants identified shared concerns and discussed the priority issues affecting women’s peace and security. As a result, they developed targeted recommendations related to the implementation of resolution 1325.
Reconstructing Afghanistan and improving circumstances for Afghan women after nearly 25 years of war, are long-term processes that require sustained commitment from the international community and determination from the Afghan government. Since the fall of the Taliban and the start of Afghanistan’s reconstruction process, a small minority of women and girls, mostly the educated and the professional, are benefiting from the changes that have taken place. However, overall the majority of women continue to face challenges of illiteracy, lack of access to healthcare, economic opportunities and human rights violations, especially in the provinces.
The Afghan Civil Society Forum, and International Alert conducted a 3–day workshop on Women, Peace and Security from November 30 to December 2, 2004. Representatives from civil society, the government, United Nations agencies, national and international NGOs and education institutions participated. The core issues discussed in this workshop were women’s needs in terms of security, peace and stability, human rights, their participation and decision-making in social and political affairs, in the establishment of economic programmes for women’s self-reliance. The participants considered the issues critical to the reconstruction process and urged that the responsible authorities take serious action. Resolution 1325 was considered to be an important tool for the promotion of women’s human rights as well as for their participation in peace and security processes at all levels. Participants have addressed the following recommendations to the Afghan government and the United Nations.
To the Afghan Government
By signing Resolution 1325 and other international agreements, the Afghan government agrees to promote women’s participation in peace and security processes at all levels. Afghanistan is obliged to implement this resolution as it is a member of the United Nations and has adhered to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter. It must honour its obligations. The implementation of resolution 1325 in Afghanistan must be monitored and evaluated with respect for Afghan cultural and social values and Islamic law. Women should mobilise so that they can better monitor its implementation and demand accountability from the Afghan government.
In accordance with UN SC Resolution 1325
- Promote and support women’s active participation in political processes
- Develop mechanisms and make opportunities available for women to participate in the reconstruction efforts
- Appoint more women to ministerial portfolios in line with their experience and qualifications
- Maintain a safe and secure environment that will promote women’s participation in social and political activities
- Ensure that women are included in an effective disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process
- Address de-mining issues
- Reform the police and the military and ensure women’s inclusion in the reformed structures
Human rights and legal issues
- Create mechanisms to address women’s rights and prevent human rights violations
- Promote public awareness of Islamic and national laws – especially among women
- Amend the Afghan civil law to address issues currently affecting civil society
- Create a legitimate mechanism to prevent domestic violence, enforced marriages and early and childhood marriages
- Establish an authorised commission to monitor and promote the rule of law in Afghanistan
Domestication and harmonisation of international and Afghan laws
- Enforce international treaties and resolutions that have been signed, and/or ratified by the Afghan government and harmonise these with domestic laws
- Take immediate action to implement resolution 1325
- Report on CEDAW in a timely manner and involve civil society in alternative reports
- Revitalise the education system and prioritise the education of women and girls
- Establish educational and vocational centres for women and girls
- Initiate adult literacy classes
- Initiate development programmes for women and girls in the capital, provinces and rural areas
- Support the disabled, widowed, homeless and unemployed women and create employment opportunities for them
- Drug addiction is becoming a serious problem. Promote a ban on poppy cultivation and smuggling to prevent the addiction of women and girls. Provide alternative income generation activities for women through initiatives such as loans and micro-credit schemes
- Improve the lives of returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) by establishing social welfare and employment centres for them
- Respect the rights of children
- Eradicate child slavery
- Eradicate early and childhood marriages
- End sexual abuse of children
Women in Afghanistan need justice and justice needs peace
- Stop the kidnapping, trafficking and sexual exploitation of women
- Address issues of impunity, redress and reparations
- Put in place mechanisms to protect the civil, political, cultural and social rights of women
Health is a priority issue.
- Address mental health issues resulting from psycho-social trauma
- Construct more health centres and clinics and staff them adequately with women and men
- Introduce family planning issues into all clinics and centres
To the United Nations
The Secretary-General of the United Nations must allocate funds that can be accessed by Afghan women to engage in peace and security activities at all levels – including the decision-making level. In particular, Afghan women want assistance for disabled women, widows and children.
Monitoring, Accountability and Reporting
The United Nations must design and put in place a reporting mechanism for Member States to report back on resolution 1325 and for civil society to monitor its implementation effectively – especially with regards to the protection of women’s rights and accountability for violence against women.