The United Nations celebrates International Women’s Day every year on 8 March. In 2015, the UN system in Afghanistan is marking the day to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges, and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality,
under the global theme “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity”.
Afghanistan is on the path to becoming a nation in which every women and girl is empowered to exercise her right to participate in all spheres of public and private life, to have her voice heard in politics and peace processes, and to be able to contribute to her community’s and nation’s development through improved access to education, economic opportunities, and a life free from violence and discrimination.
Significant improvements have occurred in the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan. These gains need to be safeguarded and further advanced. The United Nations is committed to support the Afghan Government and civil society organizations to enhance women’s participation in and contribution to all stages of governance, peace negotiations and peace processes.
The Afghan Constitution guarantees women certain rights. Substantial participation of women in the next Parliamentary and district elections is critical to the credibility and inclusiveness of the process. The Afghan Government must ensure women’s rights as candidates, voters and electoral workers are fully respected and women actively participate in all reform initiatives.
“Afghanistan’s new administration has pledged to make the legal, institutional and policy reforms needed to sustain hard-won gains made in women’s rights,” said Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). “U
NAMA will continue to emphasize that upholding and advancing women’s rights is an essential step on the road to peace and development. We welcome commitments to ensuring women be properly represented in government and major decision-making bodies affecting the country’s future, especially in any peace talks.”
Although the Afghan leadership has shown commitment to ensure women’s human rights, a recent surge in violation of women's rights, including reduction in the quota for women in provincial councils as well as the abolishment of quotas for women in district councils, brutal attacks against women, increased number of cases with child marriage, targeted attacks and killings of high-profile female officials, points to the urgent need to guarantee women’s and girls' rights.
This year from 9 to 20 March the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will undertake a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago that sets an agenda for realizing women’s rights. The CSW will also address opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda, which focuses on key structural constraints to gender equality, universality and global implementation through engagement of all stakeholders: women and men, boys and girls. It must challenge and change the unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunities, as well as discriminatory norms, practices and policies at all levels.
“In the context of Afghanistan it also means that every member of the society has a critical role in elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls. The reported increase in the number of cases of violence against women and girls is a source of major concern. Violence against women and girls is the most significant manifestation of discrimination and unequal power relations between women and men and must not be tolerated,” said Elzira Sagynbaeva, the UN Women Country Representative in Afghanistan. “By understanding and ensuring the link between women’s empowerment and the empowerment of the nation, this trend can be reversed”, she further added.
The United Nations remains committed to supporting the Government of Afghanistan in meeting its national and international obligations and commitments impacting women and girls and in particular ensuring that women have equal opportunities in economic activities and other spheres of community and public life.
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the progress made, to call for change and to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by women and girls. The United Nations celebrate the achievements obtained and strive to galvanize action to address the gaps that still remain in making gender equality a reality in Afghanistan.