The future of Afghanistan is on the drawing board. On 3-5th December an international meeting of Foreign Ministers in Bonn, Germany, will consider a peace process for Afghanistan, the reduction of foreign military involvement and levels of aid to the country over the next ten years. It is vital that women’s rights are not neglected in the US and NATO exit strategy.
The status and life chances of Afghan women have fluctuated wildly in recent decades.
In Kabul in 1994 women were no less than 70% of teachers, 50% of civil servants and 40% of doctors. The subsequent period of Taliban rule severely damaged women’s life chances. The ten-year US and NATO campaign since 2001 has involved intense investment in Afghan army and police forces and will leave a heavily militarized country – while 9% of Afghan women die in pregnancy or childbirth; over 80% of women are illiterate; more than 87% of Afghan women have experienced gender-based violence or forced marriage.
The first Bonn Agreement in 2001 provided for a Ministry of Women’s Affairs and a Human Rights Commission. In 2002 President Karzai signed a ‘Declaration of Essential Rights of Afghan Women’, affirming sex equality and ensuring women’s right to choose whether or not to wear head cover (hijab).
The Constitution of 2004, due to women’s advocacy, guarantees further rights for women.
It affirms equality and bans discrimination; gives girls a right to education; and affords women a 25% quota of seats in Parliament, provincial councils and district assemblies. Women have been slowly climbing back. Today 2.5 million girls are enrolled in school, 30% of teachers are women, and 47% of women of working age are in the workforce. It is vital that women (who are only 9 out of 70 on the High Peace Council) are fully represented at the Bonn Foreign Ministers’ meeting this December. International policies determined there must consider women’s needs and support for women’s rights.
To: The Foreign Secretary, the Rt.Hon William Hague, Foreign Office, Whitehall SW1.
I join Women in Black, the Afghan Women’s Network and other women’s organizations worldwide in calling on the British government and other governments to:
· use its influence to ensure women have an effective voice and role in all levels of the peace process, at national, provincial and district level in accordance with the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1325
· work with the Afghan government to ensure that all the human rights in the constitution are upheld in any peace settlement, including women’s right to an education and the right to participate in political life with a guaranteed 25% female quota in parliament;
· increase support to development programmes that promote women’s rights and wellbeing in political, social and economic spheres.