Website Link Includes Video.
AFGHANISTAN - OXFAM WARNS WOMEN FACE RISING
DANGER IF EXCLUDED FROM AFGHAN PEACE TALKS
(WNN) KABUL: On the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a new October 3, 2011 Oxfam report on progress for Afghan women shows steady advances for Afghan women since October 2001. But recent data shows women’s personal safety, opportunity and human rights inside the nation are beginning to erode back to conditions that existed previously.
With May 2011 being the deadliest month for Afghan civilian casualties since
2007, opinions inside and outside the country on the war in
Oxfam warns that women’s “hard-won gains remain fragile.” Numerous gains have begun to see reversals says Oxfam’s recent October report, “A Place at the Table – Safeguarding women’s rights in Afghanistan.”
“Women want peace but not at the cost of losing our freedom again,” says Noorjahan Akbar, co-founder of Young Women for Change.
The changes for women in the past decade are evident but still show disparity between those women who have more opportunity and those who have little to no ability to jump through the wall of poverty. Those who may be granted a chance to speak at the table with peace talks are the same ones who have gained more education that enables them to push forward with gains for women.
In rural regions though, many women and girls continue to fall through the cracks without a voice. Numerous girls in rural regions marry too early to gain access to any secondary educational opportunities as they suffer under discrimination and exclusion.
Current data still shows that “Over 80% of Afghan women are illiterate and only 6% aged older than 25 have had an education,” outlines Oxfam although there is a high percentage of 92 women out of 351 members in the parliament. The picture for many women, those in rural areas or those in urban areas who have been unable to receive educational opportunities, are still bleak regardless of gains.
Before 1996, when Taliban officials officially took over many of
“In most places, particularly in the villages, the condition of women is
still like a hell,” says world-renown Kandahar based activist Malalai Joya,
named one of TIME magazine’s 100 “most influential people in the world”
in 2010. In spite of gains, Joya who is a former member of the
Today crime and violence in
But conditions of war have not slowed the desire for women in the country to achieve. It may just be the opposite. “Even with conditions that seem to be deteriorating women and girls are trying to take their place in a larger Afghan society,” says co-author of the recent Oxfam report on Afghan women’s rights Orzala Ashraf Nemat.
Following the events in the United States on September 9, 2001, the Bonn Conference sponsored in part by the United Nations in Bonn, Germany, outlined women’s participation as parliamentary representatives in an ‘emergency Loya Jirga’ (Afghanistan’s National Assembly) that was intended to be part of an interim government in Afghanistan. Many Afghan women’s advocates now fear that the 2011 Bonn Conference may not include a strong enough push to bring Afghan women to the table for ‘solution-based’ meetings on peace for the country.
“Women organizations and activists have better access to local communities and are aware about the challenges and causes of insecurity in their communities, therefore they should be consulted, included to ensure that security and transition plans are implemented successfully,” says The Afghan Women’s Network in a October 6, 2011 report that addresses the dangers for women if exclusion continues to be the norm at local and international peace meetings.
“As the international community talks about the future of its relationship with Afghanistan, I worry that protecting women’s rights as stated in the Afghan constitution may be compromised as the Afghan government and members of the international community negotiate with the Taliban,” said war trauma expert and founder of Women for Women International Zainab Salbi in a June 2011 interview with Women News Network – WNN.
“Much has been promised to Afghan women some delivered and some not,” continued Salbi.
“Afghan women tell me that they do not feel that they can count on any of
the main players in peace efforts to safeguard their rights,” says Louise
Hancock, Oxfam policy advisor in
An important bridge to empowerment and equality for women in
“We have made incredible gains in the last 10 years. Women are working
as doctors, lawyers and businesswomen; and girls are at school,” says Nemat.
But conditions for Afghan women are showing recent tough losses as they are
beginning to lose ground. In June 2011 a Thomson
Reuters Foundation global poll of experts placed
“But what is life going to be like for us in the next 10 years? Already life is getting tougher for Afghan women. Afghan women want peace – not a stitch up deal that will confine us to our homes again,” Nemat continues.
“Historically speaking, religious and conservative groups always wanted the
control over the private sphere that impacts women most, as reflected by family
law and women’s access to resources and mobility. And often secular groups
traded this for economic incentives and trade,” said Salbi. “We risk
witnessing this happening in today’s
With a diversity in approaches to future solutions women such a Salbi – an
Iraqi American; Joya – who lives in the
“Afghan women want peace – not a political bargain that only serves the interests of a few,” outlines Oxfam.
Incidences of violence against women has been rising clearly in the past few
years. This rise in violence against women may provide a mirror of the
Power politics among Afghan government agencies and the rise in political and violent clashes between insurgents, criminal gangs that make up corrupt cells inside the country, Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army and external military campaigns connected to NATO show that dangers for women in a war zone are part of a haunting and tangible reality for most women living inside the country.
In 2010 civilian deaths in the country numbered 2,777+ – the highest number since 2001.
“On the surface, security conditions in the capital city appear relatively
stable. The nexus between criminal enterprises, insurgent networks and corrupt
political elites, however, is undermining
“Death is so close to us, where every second and every minute of our life, we consider and accept that we might not be here the next minute,” said Kandahar Province native Rangina Hamidi during a June 20, 2011 interview for PBS Newshour, following the meeting of the Afghanistan National Consultative Peace Jirga as the Peace Jirga discussed those who would, or would not, become part of the new High Peace Council.
The number of those brought into the High Peace Council was made through 68 appointees made by President Karzai, but included only 10 women. “And so, if talking to the Taliban would mean bringing peace and stability to the level where I don’t have to think about death every second of my life, then I’m for it,” added Hamidi.
The situation for women is reaching a critical mass as women’s leadership
opportunies inside the country is in a sharp decline. “The precarious situation
for Afghan women is set against a backdrop of spreading insecurity across
The more that women push forward with education, inclusion and opportunity
the more that regional Taliban factions fight back against progress for women.
Peace and conditions for women’s human rights on-the-ground in
“I live in a region where death is part of life in a way that is not
understood in a lot of parts of the world,” said Hamidi, an entrepreneur who
runs an embroidery business in
“Only 10 women were appointed to the High Peace Council despite strong
national and international pressure for adequate representation of women in
negotiating teams and forums,” said Amnesty International in its Annual 2011
“There are no short cuts to peace in
“What we know is they (women) have risen up and succeeded despite their circumstances and it is up to us to help fulfill the promise for our sisters there to fulfill their full potential,” said Zalbi.
For those who want to see positive change in