Afghan women say no to symbolic role in peace talks
KABUL (Pajhwok): Demanding awareness among women about elections and efforts for improving their livelihood and protection of their rights, some Afghan women have asked the government to ensure the gender has a greater say in the peace process.
The Taliban and US representatives all set to enter a fifth round of peace negotiations in Qatar today amid the Afghan government’s efforts for peace and holding a consultative Loya Jirga(grand council) in near future.
The Loya Jirga is said to be convened in mid-March in Kabul, in which over 2,000 people, including 30 percent women, would participate.
The Taliban and a number of Afghan politicians, including some women, recently held a meeting about the Afghan peace process in Moscow.
Shinkai Karokhel, a former Afghanistan envoy to Canada and a candidate in the Wolesi Jirgaelections, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the number of women who participated the peace talks was very limited or their presence was symbolic. “Such meetings are mostly led by men while women are given very little chance to talk or share their views.”
She said peace talks would be fruitful if the Afghan women were given the opportunity to talk and play their role in decision making.
Most of the Afghan women supported peace in their country but they were somehow worried because the Taliban did not talk much about their rights in meetings with US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad, Karokhel said.
“Few days back, a Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a media outlet that they would define what women activities could do after peace is established in the country. But it is a matter of concern, they should make it clear what type of women’s jobs they oppose and should not speak generally,” she added.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, a Taliban representative in Moscow meeting, had said the Taliban would respect all rights of women which Islam has granted them.
He had said Islam had granted women with all fundamental rights such as doing business, holding a possession, right to inheritance , education, work, choosing a life partner, security, health and life.
Karima Salik, women’s affairs director for Bamyan province, said: “We want rights what Islam has given us, we are Muslim, Islam does not stop women from getting education or work, so women should have their presence in all parts and this issue should be clearly talked in peace negotiations.”
“We are tired of the war, we want peace and stability because women are mostly affected in the war, we want both sides to let us talk in peace negotiations and hear our demands and give us role in decision making,” she said.
Salik said women were given only a symbolic role in peace talks done so far and they were offered a limited time to express their views.
She stressed that the number of women in the upcoming consultative Loya Jirga should not be limited.
Zarqa Yaftali, head of Women and Children Rights Research Organization, said that Afghanistan would never have a stable peace unless women were given a wider role in peace talks.
She urged high participation of women in the upcoming consultative peace jirga and an end their symbolic role in peace negotiations.
Raihana Ahmadi, a police officer in Kabul, said the Afghan women were tired of the war and they wanted peace in the country – a peace which could protect women’s achievements and freedom.
“Peace with the Taliban is a serious risk, we fear the Taliban would again stop women from work and education,” she said.
On the Taliban statements about women’s rights, she said, “We want them to be clearer, talk in details and make clear commitments.”
She said women should be given similar expression opportunity as men in peace negotiations and they should be given time to provide their own views about peace.
Ahmadi said the number of women in peace negotiations was limited compared to the number of men and women had no role in the decision making sphere.
Some women say they should be provided awareness about elections to increase their presence in the democratic process.
Shinkai Karokhel talking about women’s role in October 2018 Wolesi Jirga elections, said, “Despite insecurity and cultural problems and lack of their awareness about voting, the females voted in great numbers and played their role in the elections.”
She said public awareness programs for women for the next presidential elections should be increased. She said unfamiliarity of women with the voting process was a major problem in the Wolesi Jirga polls.
Karima Salik said women played an important role in past elections as they did not rig the polls and voted for trusted figures.
“In October elections, I saw women in Bamyan polling stations voting for their interested candidate despite their families opposition not to go outside,” she said.
She also said women’s lack of awareness about voting process was a main problem, asking the government to provide awareness to women ahead of the next presidential election.
Zarqa Yaftali said a high number of women participated in the last Wolesi Jirga polls and many women run as candidates.
But she said women still faced problems such as bad traditions, insecurity and low awareness.
Raihana Ahmadi, about women’s role in elections, also said a high number of women voted in the Wolesi Jirga polls despite many problems.
Current situation of women
Afghan women say efforts have been made for improvement of women’s livelihood during the past 18 years, but these efforts are not enough and more work is required.
Karima Salik said the living standard of Afghan women was getting better with each passing day as they had now access to education and work and had the ability to participate in politics, cultural and economic activities.
However, she said the Afghan women, particularly in remote areas, needed further services.
Karokhel also said women’s life significantly changed compared to what it had been 17 years ago.
“We have women as ministers, ambassadors, deputies, district chiefs and in other high ranked positions, which is a pride and we want to have more attention to improvement of their livelihood,” she said.
Zarqa Yaftali said despite some developments in women’s lives, they were still struggling with insecurity, bad economy, lack of education and lack of health services.
Raihana Ahmadi also said women’s lives had positively changed compared to their situation 18 years ago.
“We now can work, get education, do business and travel abroad, I work as a police officer which shows women’s lives have improved,” she said.
However, she said the work women did was still not enough and they needed further opportunities.