Sopko emphasizes importance of US support to Afghan women

KABUL (Tolo News): US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko emphasized the importance of the United States support to Afghan women and said inattention to women in Afghanistan can lead to a tragedy for them.

Explaining his new report, Support for Gender Equality: Lessons from the US Experience in Afghanistan, Sopko said the “US investment on Afghan women is an investment in Afghanistan’s future.” “We must not forget the bitter lesson we learned following our previous withdrawal from Afghanistan” Sopko said. “Cutting off those whom you have previously encouraged to rise up can lead to tragedy not only for them, but for our nation as well.”

He said US policymakers should consider conditioning US assistance to any future Afghan government on that government’s demonstrated commitment to the protection of the rights of women and girls. Sopko mentioned that likewise, the US government should also consider encouraging other international donors to impose similar conditionality on future assistance.

“I do not believe gender equality is a zero-sum game. The US can continue to play a role in shaping an outcome that preserves gains made by Afghan women and girls by advocating that Afghan women have a meaningful role in the Afghanistan peace negotiations and that any future agreement includes protections for them,” Sopko said.

He said “this key question is vitally important in the context of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the answer may determine whether the successes and investment in improving the lives of Afghan women and girls will be remembered as a lasting legacy or historical footnote.”

“We cannot be naive about the challenges that women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face. Make no mistake – though they have greater access to health care and education and work as legislators, judges, teachers, health workers, civil servants, journalists, and business and civil society leaders – Afghanistan still remains one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman,” Sopko added. SIGAR commissioned field interviews with 65 Afghans – both female and male – from 14 provinces. They represent a wide range of Afghan society and viewpoints their participation makes “this report truly unique.”

SIGAR’s new report on women is the first comprehensive, independent government analysis of US efforts to support gender equality in Afghanistan. Despite real improvements, Afghanistan remains one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman—with high maternal mortality ratios, endemic gender-based violence, and limited access to education and health care, according to the report.