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IPRI # 42, 19 April 2020

WOMEN, PEACE AND TWENTY YEARS OF UNSC 1325
In Afghanistan, there is no going back for the women

  Fatemah Ghafori

In Afghanistan, while the battle of death is played out by men, women wage the battle of life

For the past 18 years, Afghan women have made significant contributions to political reform, economic development, literature and diplomacy. Inside a very challenging platform, they sacrificed a lot to gain their basic rights. Hence, any political agreement must recognise the contributions and sacrifices of Afghan women during decades of war for the creation of a conducive environment open for further development of abilities and promoting an inclusive and free society. 

Afghanistan and Women: Beyond the last two decades

The disastrous consequences of two decades of civil war have weighed heavily on the women of Afghanistan. 

While the battle of death is played out by men, women wage the battle of life. Throughout years of fighting, destruction, and displacement, Afghan women have struggled a lot to support and sustain their families. Injury, death and the loss of family breadwinners have made women lead the family and take the responsibility to feed and educate the other members. By looking at history, it is not difficult to find out the pale role of women in battles not only as a fighter but, also a much stronger one as a sacrifice.  

Women have been subjected to gender-specific human rights abuses. Physical abuse, rape and forced marriage were a few amongst those abuses. 

Afghan notions of honour and shame underpinning cultural norms have been one of the greatest hindrances. Since early in history, Afghan women have been controlled by male relatives continuously; the latter emphasises female modesty and purity. In this regard, Afghan women have not found the right space to prove their abilities and strength. Afghan women have not been given an independent identity; they have been identified as mothers, sisters or wives. The basic right of education, freedom of expression, social security, right to work has been refused to Afghan women for many years.  

The last two decades: Afghanistan, Women and the peace process

The Afghan constitution guarantees rights and participation of women in all aspects of life as a whole and some cases in particular. The first legal source of support is the explicit text of Article 22 in constitution law, which explicitly states the equality of men and women in social terms. The constitution of Afghanistan has given free and equal rights for men and women without any obstacle. Likewise, the constitution has, in part, adopted positive gender discrimination in the structure of the country's political system as an immutable principle. 

In February 2019, Afghan National Women's Consensus for Peace led by Afghanistan's First Lady Rullah Ghani was inaugurated. This consensus aimed to empower women's role in peace talks with the Taliban and is a grand program that brought together 11,000 women across Afghanistan so far. The figure is high and considerable and is not to be forgotten. The consensus has expanded to 24 provinces, aimed at the meaningful involvement of women in the peace process in Afghanistan. They raised their voice for having meaningful participation, space beyond consultation or having a formal representative in these negotiations.

One of the biggest campaigns advocating women's rights in the peace deal named 'My Red Line' was launched in March 2019. Farahnaz Forutan, an Afghan journalist who launched the campaign with the support of the UN Office in Kabul, has called "the pen" and "freedom expression" as her red line. The purpose of this campaign is to point out and bold all the uncompromisable rights and wishes of women around the country. UNICEF Women Director Elita Miller has greatly supported this campaign and stated that with this campaign, Afghan women highlight all their rights which are not be compromised in the peace deal, they have already paid an exorbitant price for peace.

In May 2019, the Afghan Women's Network released a six-point statement before the intra-Afghan talks in Moscow. This statement provides more details on women's demands: a fair share of Afghan women in the peace deal, human right is not to be compromised, women's rights should be explicitly stated, no change in the political system, no compromise on laws and public order of the country, and, keep strong ties with the international community. The statement acknowledged the participation of the specific number of women in the Moscow peace talks. This statement also stresses this limited presence is by no means sufficient and far from "meaningful participation" on behalf of all segments of society.

To conclude, Afghan Women will not go back 

An important campaign initiated by Afghan women in October 2019 while the re-opening of peace talks with the Taliban was the hashtag of "Afghan Women Will not Go Back" protecting Afghan women's democratic achievements. Following this, hashtags of "I Protest", "Where's My Name" and "No! to Harassment of Women" advocated for women's rights and protested against gender discrimination, street harassment, and organised violence against women. In this support, women from Jawzjan and Kunar provinces unanimously raised their voices and called on the Taliban to stop the war.   In a series of protests in December 2019 about 500 women and women's rights activists in Kunduz under the banner "War is enough!", they gathered. Women in Herat also followed the movement by 500 women and activist gatherings.  

Clearly, the above efforts and initiatives show the unity of Afghan women and their desire to play a positive role in the future of Afghanistan. Now, what are their concerns after the US signed a deal with the Taliban?

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghan women have come to power in various sectors. The Afghan government, along with the support of international partners, has been able to provide women with the opportunity to grow in various fields over the past 18 years. This includes social and political aspects. Afghanistan government's efforts to include women in the peace process is not ignorable, but the insufficiency is highlighted. Afghan women want their position and their rights to be guaranteed. A strong nation requires an active share of women in social and political terms. Afghan women paid a high price for peace, they sacrificed a lot, and now it is the time for peace and prosperity; for justice.


Ms Fatehmah Ghafori is a postgraduate scholar from the Unesco Madenjeet Singh Institute for South Asian Regional Corporation at Pondicherry University. She is from Herat and has been a part of women empowerment projects including PROMOTE

The above commentary is a part of a series on ‘WOMEN, PEACE AND TWENTY YEARS OF UNSC 1325’. This an attempt by NIAS to mark the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the historical United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on ‘women, peace and security’ which was the first to recognize the importance of women in the peacebuilding process and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN peace and security efforts.

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