During one week in France in the end of March 2011, ten women newly elected to the Afghan Parliament have:
– Attended a 3-day negotiation, teambuilding and leadership seminar delivered in Persian at ESSEC. This has notably been an opportunity to reinforce cohesion and create a cooperative network among them.
– Shared their vision with the public thanks to two major events.
– Met their counterparts at the French Parliament.
– Attended high level meetings at UNESCO and at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
– Met the media through interviews and a press conference
The program team has been working with Howard Wolpe (former U.S. Special Advisor for the Great Lakes Region) and Steve McDonald, consulting Director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS), who have initiated leadership training programs in the war-torn nations of Burundi, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in partnership with ESSEC IRENE (Institute for Research and Education on Negotiation). In order to prepare Afghan women leaders, we have designed and implemented a program inspired by these initiatives, adapted to the Afghan context and targeted at the women elected to the first chamber of Parliament. The program has been conducted in Persian, as the lead facilitators and program coordinator are natives of the region.
The reconstruction of the Afghan society is a strong priority of Afghanistan. Women have an important role to play in the administrative and political structures of the State to help it achieve this goal. It is therefore essential to strengthen their capacity and to create more cohesion among them. A more effective working relationship will reinforce their ability to achieve their mandate and contribute to a more peaceful, democratic Afghanistan.
In fact, since the adoption of the new Afghan constitution in January 2004, the status of women has improved in Afghanistan. The new constitution states that “the citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law”. While this is a significant step forward for Afghan women, they still remain largely absent in public life. Our program is meant to address this challenge. The objective of this program is to enhance and promote the political participation of Afghan women. The program is also designed to create social cohesion and cooperation amongst women leaders and to assist them in developing a collaborative network. In this first phase, the program will target the women elected to the first Chamber of the Parliament. This program is designed to be the first step towards a broader initiative that would be extended to all women parliamentarian.
In order to assess the feasibility and relevance of this broader program that would be organized in Kabul, exploratory trips to Afghanistan have been conducted in April 2009 and September 2010 with Françoise Hostalier, a former French Minister, currently elected at the French Parliament and vice president of the “French/Afghanistan Friendship Commission”. Through a number of interviews with parliamentarians, government officials, international organizations and civil society, a warm response was received for the type of capacity and leadership building initiative that has been done in Burundi with the WWICS. A letter in Persian written by Mrs. Hostalier which presents the project has been sent to the women elected at the first chamber of the Afghan Parliament; several answered positively. The meetings in Kabul confirmed that many of the women elected at the Parliament are frustrated in not being able to effectively make an impact and do their work.
Thanks to Mrs. Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues near Mrs. Clinton and her support we have been connected to the U.S. embassy in France. As a first step, we have been asked us to conduct a one-week program in France for 10 newly elected women members of the Afghan Parliament which also gave them the opportunity to share their vision of the situation in their country and notably the issues women are facing in Afghanistan.