Koenders: women's voices should be heard at Afghanistan conference

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Newsflash | 14 January 2010

Development minister Bert Koenders says that Afghan women should be allowed to address the Afghanistan conference that will take place on 28 January in London. He believes that still too little attention is paid to women's role in Afghan reconstruction.

'Women are indispensable to the reconstruction of Afghanistan,' said Mr Koenders. 'Yet in recent years the number of women working in the public sector there has continually declined from an already low level. This has to change.'

Minister Koenders made these remarks at the opening of an international meeting at the Peace Palace in The Hague on women in Afghanistan. He also spoke in the Peace Palace with the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer.

'Like us, the United States puts women at the heart of its Afghan development policy,' said the Minister. 'This is why I plan to co-organise a seminar soon with the US government, so we can join forces to improve the position of women in Afghanistan.'

Afghan women live in very poor conditions. Almost 90% of them have experienced sexual or other forms of physical violence. Hardly any women have jobs in government, education or the private sector. Those women who do work as police officers, judges or entrepreneurs face daily threats to their lives. 'We owe it to these women to invest in them,' said Mr Koenders. 'Only women's efforts and commitment will enable Afghanistan to develop and achieve lasting peace.'