The main objective of this new edition of our program was to improve and promote the participation of Afghan women in national governance, politics and the peace process.
During one week in France in June 2019, fifteen high level Afghan women did:
- attend a 4-day capacity-building seminar in the following areas: negotiation, conflict management, consensus building, team building and leadership. Issues of women’s inclusion in peace processes will also be addressed and participants will be supported in the development of a concrete strategy and action plan to develop their meaningful participation in the peace process in Afghanistan. It will also be an opportunity to create a network of collaboration and mutual aid between them and to strengthen their cohesion, which will contribute to a greater efficiency and the success of their actions;
- meet with French women leaders, including MPs and Senators; it will be an opportunity for discussions and exchanges of good practices;
- meet the media (through interviews and a press conference) and the public through two major interactive conferences that will allow them to shed light on the situation in Afghanistan, its impact at the regional level and in Europe, and the situation of Afghan women and the challenges they face in this current complex context.
Context (May 2019)
Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has experienced a state of civil war punctuated by foreign occupation. The Taliban regime has been particularly harsh for women, especially from the point of view of education which was forbidden to them. After the fall of the Taliban government and the appointment of Hamid Karzai as interim president of Afghanistan, the country convened a Constitutional Loya Jirga (Council of Elders) in 2003 and a new constitution was ratified in January 2004. The Afghan Constitution adopted states that “the citizens of Afghanistan – whether male or female – have equal rights and duties before the law”. Since then, women have been allowed to return to work, the government no longer forces them to wear the burqa, and they have even been appointed to important positions in the government. Despite all these changes, many challenges remain. The repression of women is still widespread in rural areas where many families continue to prevent their own mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters from participating in public life.
A first presidential election was held in October 2004 and Hamid Karzai was elected President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It was followed by legislative elections in September 2005. The National Assembly – the first legislature elected freely in Afghanistan since 1973 – began to sit in December 2005, and has included a significant number of women elected. After several elections since then, this number has remained steady thanks to the women quota included in the new constitution. The Afghan Parliament (Wolesi Jirga) has two chambers: the first has 249 seats, of which 69 are currently occupied by women. All these years, elected women and men alike have been confronted with a particular climate of palpable tension at all levels in the country, but also with increasing expectations of the population (most of whom were not satisfied during the previous mandates).
The efforts of the international community are undeniable, the city of Kabul and the big cities have been transformed in a generally positive way. Roads and infrastructure have been built. A professional army is in place. The results of efforts in the education sector, especially girls, are promising. But despite unprecedented investments of the international community, the situation in Afghanistan remains complex and worrying. Clashes and tensions have resumed seriously in recent years. It is very difficult to estimate the number of victims, homeless, internally displaced persons and refugees abroad. The year 2018 was a particularly deadly year.
The result of the last presidential election in 2014 that brought Ashraf Ghani to the helm of the country is still contested. Given the difficulties the country faces, the legislative election of October 2018 was late and the final results are still not officially confirmed. The independent electoral commission has a lot of trouble separating votes from fraud.
The presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan is becoming more and more widespread and the number of victims both within the police force and the civilian population is increasing. US President Donald Trump has appointed a new envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan (Zalmay Khalilzad). His mission is to coordinate and carry out actions to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. He tries to find the best way to reach a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The Russians took exactly the same initiative. Bilateral meetings with the Taliban organized at the regional level either by the Americans or the Russians have taken place and recently the pace has accelerated. However, the Taliban still refuse to negotiate with the Afghan government.
Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000 by the UN Security Council, recognizes and encourages the role that women can play in peace and security issues. It takes into account the consequences of the war on women, as well as their contribution to the settlement of conflicts and the perpetuation of peace. Unfortunately, since then, women have been included in very few peace processes and conflict resolution. This is the case in Afghanistan where, in all the initiatives mentioned, Afghan women seem to have no voice: their voices are almost inaudible and they fear being victims of this peace process.
The next presidential election scheduled for the Fall 2019 is worrisome in such a context. The political debate in Kabul has already begun. For the moment, there is no woman candidate.
The coming months are therefore crucial for the country and especially for women as they are facing major challenges. This program aims to meet these needs.