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Pakistani and Afghan women join in solidarity in Islamabad to celebrate International Women's Day

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Some eight hundred Pakistani and Afghan women gathered on 7 March 2002 in Islamabad's Jinnah Stadium as part of a unique event to symbolize solidarity between the women of the two neighboring countries on the occasion of International Women's Day.
Working together, they sewed a 90 meter long embroidery panel consisting of 347 individual contributions. Some expressed messages of hope in Urdu, Pashto or Dari for the new Afghanistan that is slowing re-emerging after years of conflict. Others showed doves, flowers or symbols of peace.

Most of the Pakistani and Afghan women who participated in the event came from Islamabad and Rawalpindi, thanks to a mobilizing effort of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and the NGOs SACH Struggle for Change and PROWESS. Two hundred of the Afghan women had traveled from refugee camps near Peshawar, thanks to UNHCR. They claimed several provinces of Afghanistan as their native land.

For Saadia, a young Pakistani college student, the event provided her a rare opportunity to interact with Afghan women. " I had very little idea of who they are", she said, before adding that the gathering would in her view contribute to a better understanding between the two nations.

A soon as the event ended, the embroidery panel was placed on a UN plane to Kabul, where it is expected to be displayed during International Women's Day activities organized there on 8 March. The Islamabad gathering, spearhead by the UN Information Centre in Islamabad, involved all Agencies of the UN System in Pakistan, with direct support from UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, WFP and WHO.