Bonn Conference: the voice of Afghan women

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At the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, we worked with representatives of grassroots Afghan organisations to demand that women have a say in their country’s future.

1000 delegates from 100 countries attended the International Afghanistan Conference, which focused on the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014.

In the run-up to the conference, we hosted a visit from one of our Afghan partners, whose Director came to London to lobby the UK government. She met Baroness Northover, a minister in the Department for International Development, and James Arbuthnot MP from the Defence Select Committee, and urged them to make sure that future aid is delivered in consultation with ordinary people in Afghanistan – and that it helps to empower women.

We also signed up to the Afghan Women’s Network Green Scarves campaign and challenged decision makers in London and Bonn to ensure that Afghan women are at the heart of the peace process, and are given a meaningful say in their country’s future.

As a member of the European Network for NGOs in Afghanistan (ENNA), we contributed to a paper, “Priorities for Action”, asking European decision makers in Bonn to commit to long-term aid distributed on the basis of need across Afghanistan, guaranteeing the protection of women’s rights and guaranteeing that women have at least 30% of seats at official meetings.

Importantly, the delegates at the conference included both male and female representatives from grassroots Afghan organizations. And 11 out of 39 Afghan government delegates to Bonn were women, huge progress since the 2009 London Conference when the Afghan government had no female representatives.

The conclusions arising from the Bonn Conference have coined the next ten years of engagement in Afghanistan the “Transformation Decade,” signaling a decade-long commitment of international support to the people and government of Afghanistan. But specifics on how this will take place are as yet unclear.

“We share the concern of Afghan women’s activists around some of the conference conclusions,” says CAFOD’s Jennifer McCarthy, “Specifically the lack of adequate clarity on how the measures to protect women’s rights and promote security for women and girls will be implemented.

“We therefore support the Afghan Women’s Network’s call for ‘clear monitoring and planning to respond to any negative trends in women’s mobility, violence against women or their participation in decision-making.’

“We applaud the efforts of Afghan women activists who have worked tirelessly in the months leading up to the conference.”

Read more about our work in Afghanistan>>