Theatre performances, exhibitions of artwork and speeches highlighting education for women and girls and their participation in the government and public spheres marked International Women’s Day (8 March) this week in United Nations-backed events across Afghanistan.
At an event in southern Kandahar province on Saturday, Deputy Governor Abdul Ali Shamsi urged for moving away from “routine meetings and workshops” to taking “practical steps” to ensure women’s rights. On the occasion, a group of theatre actors performed on the theme of girls’ access to education. Speaking at a similar event in Bamyan province in the central highlands region, Governor Ghulam Ali Wahdat said, “Education is the efficient way to empower women, and we should make sure that every girl is enrolled in school.” Throughout this week, local authorities and civil society organizations in Bamyan are organizing several events to raise awareness about equal rights for women. In the capital Kabul, in a joint news release, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Women said the world body 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 UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNAMA, Nicholas Haysom, said the UN political mission 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,” said Mr. Haysom. Although the Afghan leadership has shown commitment to ensure women’s rights, a recent surge in violence against women, 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, points to the urgent need to guarantee women’s and girls' rights. “The reported increase in the number of cases of violence against women and girls is a source of major concern,” said the UN Women Country Representative in Afghanistan, Elzira Sagynbaeva. Among other UN-backed events elsewhere, a three-day exhibition showcasing women entrepreneurship skills in handicrafts, jewelry and saffron production opened in the western province of Herat on Sunday. The Women’s Day observances in eastern Nangarhar province and north-eastern Kunduz province included exhibitions of artworks by schoolgirls seeking to end violence against women. Speaking at an event in Kunduz, an official from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Shafiqa Separ, said street violence has been a serious problem, which has been hindering girls’ education. “It’s a big concern for the women and girls; some families do not allow their daughters to go to school for this reason,” said Ms. Separ.