Afghanistan

Eliminating violence against women stressed at UN-backed radio debate in Nangarhar

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JALALABAD - The importance of eliminating of all kinds of violence against girls and women, as well as the promotion of gender equality was discussed at a UN-backed radio programme in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province.

The Safa Radio programme, supported by the Jalalabad regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), aimed to encourage families, religious scholars, tribal elders and officials to better understand their responsibilities in eliminating violence against women (EVAW) and empowering women and girls.

The panelists, an EVAW law prosecutor, a representative of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), a religious scholar, and a youth advocate, talked about the various forms of violence against women in the province and the available legal tools such as the EVAW law or UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security that was incorporated in Afghanistan’s own system in the form of National Action Plan.

Women in eastern region, including Nangarhar province, face different forms of violence - violent extremism, poverty, illiteracy and inequality. There is a growing recognition by the government and international community that efforts to eliminate violence against women must involve not only government, but also the elders and religious scholars.

Mr Qari Abdul Malik Mazloomyar, a religious scholar, said, “Exchange and forced marriages are strictly prohibited in Islam, as they usually result in very dangerous consequences for the families and for the society. If our families avoid the exchange and forced marriages, it will be a big step and immense positive change in reducing the level of violence against women and family disputes ”.

“In Islam, the boys and girls have equal rights. Islam advises education for both boys and girls. Based on this valuable lesson from Islam, the parents and government have to provide equal education for both boys and girls. If the families don’t allow their girls to go to school, they will be accountable to Almighty Allah”, added Abdul Malik.

In the lively discussion, the speakers concurred with each other that the best way to deal with the problem is to empower women. They recognized that during last 15-16 years, with the support of international community, many positive changes happened in terms of women’s empowerment and women’s involvement in social and political activities, but there is still a long way to go before women and girls in Afghanistan are fully protected through mechanisms such as the EVAW law.

Mr Abdul Waheed Hakimi, EVAW law prosecutor in Nangarhar’s Prosecution office said “The level of violence against women has decreased in many areas of the region, but unfortunately, in spite of our efforts, the number of VAW cases have increased in some areas. That is why, I think, in order to eliminate violence against women effectively, we need the combined efforts of several segments of society, particularly, elders and religious scholars.”

All four panelists called on communities across the province to empower Afghan women to pave a way for eliminating VAW. They also called on the government to enhance training and education opportunities for women and girls that can reduce the level of violence and enhance their opportunities for participating in the full spectrum of Afghan social and political life.

Ms Hashema Sharif, representative of AIHRC said, “We need enhanced vocational training and education opportunities to position Afghan women to take key roles in professional careers. Providing women with the education facilities is one of the most important ways towards elimination or reduction of violence against women and girls”.

“Despite literacy in Nangarhar being highest in eastern region, women are yet to occupy key positions in the provincial government,” added Ms Sharifa. “I hope the women will have a strong will to become leaders of the society, and also, the government is supposed to extend greater support to the women in this regard”.

Samiullah Durani, a youth advocate said, “I would like to thank the international community and UNAMA for their valuable support to Afghanistan, thanks to which our country has made significant progress in last 16 years in many areas including promotion of women’s rights. I hope they will continue their support in EVAW, with the focus on outreach activities through media, as it may help a lot in enhancing awareness regarding the negative consequences of violence for the families as well as for the society”.

In the conclusion, all the speakers expressed shared hope that “Our collective efforts and determination to move forward on preventing violence against women will lead to results that will have a real and profound impact on women and men in eastern region”.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists 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.