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A call for women’s rights at Bonn Conference on Afghan security

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Alexandra Szydlowska
WVoN co-editor

UN Women has applauded Afghan women’s rights groups for their determined efforts to ensure gender equality remains on the agenda of Afghanistan’s transition process.

Afghan women joined more than 1,000 delegates from 100 countries in attending a conference on December 5 to discuss putting responsibility over national security back into the hands of the Afghan government (see WVoN story).

Among the issues discussed at the Bonn Conference, the current social position of Afghan women featured high on the agenda of groups such as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Afghan Women’s Network.

In the past ten years, Afghanistan has seen several steps taken towards women’s empowerment, including the adoption of a 25 per cent quota for women sitting in Parliament, and the adoption of laws intended to combat gender based violence.

However, feminism has still some way to go in Afghanistan, as the challenges Afghan women face remain deeply entrenched in society.

A recent study by the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs and women’s groups reports that approximately 57 per cent of girls in Afghanistan are married before the age of 16.

The estimated literacy rate for women stands at 15.8 per cent and women remain marginalized in peace and transition efforts — for example, women constitute only 12.8 per cent of the High Peace Council.

Among the key issues raised at the Bonn conference was the need for Afghan women to engage directly in the current peace process, amid calls that the security of women – whether in public or at home – be prioritised by the Afghan government.

Advocates of gender equality called for a more rigorous and transparent recruitment process for the Afghan Security Forces, as well as the involvement of women’s groups and women community leaders by the police, and more funding for initiatives like women’s access to education and health services, agricultural programmes, vocational training, etc.

As one of the Afghan women present at the Bonn Conference rightfully said: “Men and women are two wings of the same bird. If one wing is broken, the bird cannot take off and fly.”

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