Afghanistan

Women’s voices need to be heard; less than a quarter of those involved in Afghanistan’s peace negotiations are women, notes CARE

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Leaders gathered at the virtual Afghanistan donor conference on 23 and 24 November 2020 must put women and girls at the centre of discussions, says CARE.

Despite political commitments, women remain largely excluded from meaningful participation in the Afghanistan peace process. Only 22% of the formal and informal Afghanistan peace negotiations and internationally backed consultations conducted between 2005 and 2020 included women . At the upcoming conference, donors need to ensure that women’s participation in peace and reconstruction talks is a requirement for any future financial assistance.

CARE’s Deputy Country Director, Marianne O’Grady, said; “Women constitute half of Afghanistan’s population, and it is crucial that the difficult task of peacebuilding be done by men and women in partnership. Women are also the central caretakers of families and everyone is affected when they are excluded from peacebuilding. Women are advocates for peace, as peacekeepers, relief workers and mediators. Women have already been shown to play prominent roles in peace processes in the Horn of Africa such as in Sudan and Burundi, where they have contributed as observers. They could be a real asset to Afghanistan’s peace process if allowed to do so.”

The aim of the upcoming conference is to commit the Afghan government and the international community to shared development objectives for 2021-2024, to coordinate development cooperation, and to ensure financial support for the Afghan government.

Zarqa Yaftali, Director of the Women & Children’s Legal Research Foundation in Afghanistan, and a civil society representative at the forthcoming donor conference, said, “Without women’s participation in the peace process, there would not be sustainable peace. If we ignore around 50% of the population, the peace process is not inclusive, transparent or based on justice.”

In 2019-2020, Afghanistan was ranked the second worst performer in the Women, Peace and Security Index. A number of laws and action plans have been passed over the years to protect the rights of women and girls, eliminate gender-based violence, stop early and forced marriages, and support women’s economic empowerment and political participation, but the lack of implementation means repression, discrimination and violence are still widespread. Fifty-six per cent of ever-married Afghan women have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Given the likelihood of under-reporting due to taboos and fear of reprisal, this figure is likely to be higher. “We cannot have true peace in Afghanistan if women do not feel safe at home and in their workplaces,” said CARE Afghanistan Gender Specialist, Meena.

CARE spoke to over 6,000 women across 40 countries, including Afghanistan, on the impact of COVID-19. One female respondent from Herat Province said, “Sometimes I feel unsafe. Criminal and gender-based violence incidents are increasing.”

CARE Afghanistan’s Every Voice Counts project promotes effective and inclusive decision-making processes, especially for women, works with a number of NGOs and civil society organisations, including the Women & Children’s Legal Research Foundation, to advocate for excluded groups and works with local authorities to ensure a safe space for these groups.

Deepmala Mahla, CARE’s Regional Asia Pacific Director, explained, “Women tell us all the time that they want to feel safe, be able to access healthcare, learn skills to enable them to work and earn an income to help support their children and for their daughters to be educated and grow up in a world where they feel safe and empowered. The Afghanistan peace process must include a plan for inclusive humanitarian assistance in order to be sustainable.”

Founded in 1945, CARE is one of the largest and oldest humanitarian aid organisations fighting global poverty. CARE has a special focus on empowering and meeting the needs of women and girls and promoting gender equality and works in 100 countries around the world.

CARE has a long history in Afghanistan, establishing its first mission there in 1961.

CARE’s programs in Afghanistan focus on women’s social and economic empowerment, education, rural development and emergency response.

ENDS

For media enquiries contact:

Suzy Sainovski (based in Melbourne, Australia)
Asia Pacific Regional Communications & Media Advisor, CARE International

Email: suzy.sainovski@care.org
Skype: suzy.sainovski
Mobile: + 61 3 429 418 353