Empowerment of Afghan women and their increased participation in the country’s economic and political development was at the centre of a lively UNAMA-backed discussion in remote northwestern Badghis province yesterday.
Around 20 participants -- including women’s rights activists, religious scholars, government officials and university students – gathered in the provincial capital Qalai-Naw for the event, which is part of a series of three taking place in the western region. The discussions are also reaching a wider audience via coverage on Ariana TV.
The forum highlighted the importance of women’s participation in the country’s economic and political development, raised awareness about the situation of women particularly in rural areas and pointed to a need to improve women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Sharing a border with Turkmenistan, Badghis province is mountainous with forested areas, some of which have been damaged during the ongoing conflict. Militant groups maintain an active presence in some parts of the province, which also faces a range of social challenges including access to health and education services.
Panelist Halimeh Rahpaima, a former head of the provincial Department of Women Affairs, emphasized the issue of violence against women, which could lead to serious consequences including severe maiming and even murder.
Ms. Rahpaima called for more flexibility in the handling of cases of violence against women, so that women could initiate legal procedures in cities – where they sometimes flee to escape violence – instead of having to return to their local district to begin proceedings.
Fellow panelist Aziz Tawakoli, a human rights activist, pointed to a lack of female teachers as being a key factor in girls dropping out of school and not getting the education they need.
Benjamin Clark, a UNAMA representative, said that the event highlighted significant challenges faced by women as well as a number of opportunities.
“Undoubtedly curriculum reform to remove allied gender bias and stereotyping would make a big difference to the future participation of Afghan girls in society,” said Mr. Clark.
Girls and women’s right to education is a central obligation of states under the universal declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.