Women’s rights spotlighted at UN-backed event in Afghanistan’s northeast

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PUl-E-KHUMRI - Government officials, civil society members, teachers, activists and other community leaders gathered in Afghanistan’s northeast to discuss recent efforts to improve protections for women’s rights.

Some 30 community leaders attended the UN-backed symposium in the capital of the north-eastern province of Baghlan to consider practical ways to work together, at the local level, to empower Afghan women in all areas, from the social to the political, and enable them to enjoy their human rights.

Participants discussed the effectiveness of formal mechanisms, including Afghan legislation, to prevent and address harassment. They also discussed establishing anti-harassment committees.

In her opening remarks, Khadija Yaqin, the Director of Baghlan’s Department of Women’s Affairs, framed the discussion by stressing that while the recent anti-harassment legislation is a positive step for Afghanistan, it is expected that all state officials now join efforts to implement it.

Other speakers at the Baghlan event offered similar observations, underlining the importance of initiatives to advance the implementation of Afghanistan’s laws to protect women from harassment in the workplace and in other settings.

“While there are many educated and qualified girls, they are often not allowed to work outside their homes because of fear of being harassed,” said Saliha, the principal of a secondary school in Pul-e-Khumri. “Women have rights and should be allowed to work in all fields, not only as teachers.”

At the event, which was organized by UNAMA’s Kunduz regional office, women and men expressed concern about these and other issues, including the low levels of women’s participation in public life in the northeast. Many cited the creation of job opportunities as a priority.

Participants made several recommendations, including addressing obstacles that hinder women’s meaningful participation in public life, such as security, violence and discrimination, and raising awareness across the nation about the importance of women’s rights.

Participants jointly resolved to reach out to the governor’s office to establish a Provincial Anti-Harassment Committee that would be able to coordinate the work of the committees that are expected to be established by each government department.

“Civil society in Baghlan will support these efforts through regular advocacy and outreach, including in remote areas,” said Ali Fazil, a civil society activist.

The northeast event is among many other similar programmes and initiatives resulting from UNAMA reaching out to a range of groups across the country to create spaces, both physical and on social media, for them to come together and discuss issues that are of critical importance to them, and to strategize on the best way forward.

At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussion and debate 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.

UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.