Meaningful participation of Afghan women in peace efforts the focus of ‘open days’ events

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KABUL - With a special focus in 2019 on the meaningful participation of women in peace efforts, this year’s nationwide ‘Global Open Days’ events commenced in Afghanistan with a UN-backed symposium in Kabul.

The Kabul event, organized by UNAMA’s central regional office, is the first in a series of meetings scheduled to take place across the country in the coming weeks, bringing together hundreds of women with representatives from government offices, religious institutions, academia and civil society.

“Women have an important and critical role to play in peacebuilding,” said Shahla Saif, a member of the Kabul municipality women’s council, stressing that the presence of women in any peace initiative will help those initiatives succeed.

Many participants at the Kabul symposium offered similar views. Others expressed concern that while women continue to be severely affected by Afghanistan’s armed conflict, their contribution to peace efforts, at local and national levels, is limited to symbolic roles.

Hanifa Girowal, Kabul’s deputy governor, offered her perspective on how women are affected by the conflict in Afghanistan and stressed that in every peace initiative there should be a mechanism for enabling women’s meaningful inclusion.

“United Nations events are examples of inclusive mechanisms for women’s voices to be heard,” said Girowal. “The events should be expanded.”

The Kabul symposium brought together government officials, women’s rights advocates, university professors, civil society members and other community leaders who reaffirmed the important role Afghan women can play in preventing and resolving conflict, and in peacebuilding.

At the conclusion, participants made joint recommendations to improve women’s participation in peace efforts, including through creating more opportunities for their education; raising awareness among communities about the value of their contributions in decision-making processes; and increasing their options at all levels of Afghanistan’s social and political life.

Launched by the United Nations Security Council in 2010, ‘Global Open Days’ are special events held around the world not only to raise awareness about the role of women in maintaining and promoting peace through the prevention and resolution of conflict but also to support dialogue between United Nations officials and women’s organizations.

The 2019 ‘Open Days’ events in Afghanistan are expected to offer opportunities for Afghan women to engage formally with community leaders and with United Nations officials on how they perceive and understand their participation in peace processes and local peace initiatives.

The upcoming events, all organized by UNAMA’s regional offices across Afghanistan, will be held with a view to documenting the ideas of Afghan women on how to increase their participation in future peace initiatives.

Culminating in a national dialogue event in the nation’s capital, the consultations are expected to help inform policy discussions aimed at increasing Afghan women’s meaningful participation in decision-making related to peace efforts.

UNAMA continues to work with advocacy groups and institutions – including provincial councils, religious leaders, youth groups, women’s groups and local media outlets – to create platforms, using radio, social media and television, to enable Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.

At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussions and debates for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.

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.