Women in Afghanistan have been silent, yet vulnerable victims of civil wars and violent conflicts for years. They have long been excluded from society, their status became non-existent and their contribution as citizens made little sense in a society largely made for and by men. In the light of the past few years and the multiple efforts of the international community to bring a stable peace to Afghanistan it is essential to assess the place occupied by women. Do they have any impact on conflict resolution and what is their exact role in the peace processes?
The Afghan case is interesting in the sense that it seems to stand for a real ‘awakening’ in this post-war society. Indeed, Afghan women have successfully taken control of their own lives, which they were deprived of for many decades. After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2002, women were excluded from crucial discussions and initiatives. In addition, there has been minimal space for women to influence decision-making at the highest levels of society even during Hamid Karzai’s Presidency from 2003 to 2010. Despite this, a trend appeared step by step in recent years amongst both international and Afghan civil society actors and resulted in an active participation of women in the reconstruction process and in most political events. Most importantly, women competed against official candidates during the presidential election in 2014. Meanwhile some female civil society activists in Afghan NGOs have increasingly developed projects dealing with the role of women in peace not only in the public space but also within their own families at home. This is because women can intervene in talking to their sons, brothers and husbands setting up a plaform for dialogue, namely in convincing their fellow men not to take part in violent conflicts. At the same time, courageous and capable Afghan women took part in peace committees throughout the country. The High Peace Council (HPC) established in 2010 to “guide the peace process and ensure the good participation of community members including women” officially welcomed 9 women among its 70 members. These women have played a useful role and provided expertise to the core national process. In the various Provinces Peace Committees (PPCs) established by the HPC, they have continuously been very active since then and made a real difference.
Similarly, Afghanistan prepared a special Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan (NAP), stressing the importance to implement UNSC Resolution 1325 and “ensuring that women’s rights are fully included and respected in the peace-bulding processes, including through participation in negotiations”. President Ashraf Ghani launched this plan in June 2015 and strong signs of change and deep involvement from women in all steps of conflict resolution were perceived afterwards. Far from being simple watchers, women became indeed real actors and contributors to peace, specifically in the reconciliation process. The recent efforts to foster peace and security for all communities as well as the promise to include women in the negotiations set the stage for a deeper involvement and significant role of women and girls in the entire peace process over the past years. On the occasion of the International Day of Peace on September 21, 2020 Women for Afghan Women (WAW), a grassroots civil society association aiming at protecting the rights of women and girls, organized several forums countrywide and promoted Women and Peacebuilding programs. More than 500 persons, “the vast majority of whom were women”, attended those workshops and stated that peace was the current and ultimate priority for Afghanistan. This points to the necessity of more efficiently including women into real negotiations through international forums. Women in Afghanistan are willing to contribute to building a lasting peace and a better society, they make a real impact on conflict resolution and play a large role in the reconstruction of their country. This is a major hope for a generation of young girls who consider their involvement as an outstanding opportunity to change the mentalities.
While post-conflict management in a gender-perspective is important in the crisis resolution process, the cycle starts with the crisis itself. When a crisis hits, how can you act? Our next webinar on Crisis Communication Management prepares you to gain a better and deeper understanding of crisis management and communication tools and will help you make a significant difference in your future decisions. If you want to find out more about this, you are most welcome to join in!
Anne Marrillet holds a Master in History as well as a Master in European Studies from the European Institute of the University of Geneva. After working as Project Officer at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, she focuses on International Security and Human Rights and is also strongly interested in inter-disciplinary topics.