Afghan women from the across the country gathered on Monday in Kabul to discuss their experiences, vision and contribution to peace in the country at the Fourth Kabul Symposium “Afghan Women; Messengers of Peace” hosted by Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani.
Addressing delegates at the symposium’s opening on Sunday night, Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said: “The United Nations stands in solidarity with Afghan women, and supports all efforts to ensure that women’s involvement in peace is meaningful.”
“This three-day symposium is an excellent opportunity for you to share your experiences, discuss your visions for the future and strategize about how women must play a leading role in building peace in Afghanistan,” said Yamamoto.
The UN envoy underscored other experiences from around the world that had demonstrated that in order for peace to be sustainable, women have to be involved from the outset.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meanwhile addressed delegates on Monday morning and said if there was no war in the country millions of women would be doctors and engineers but that currently they are the biggest victims of the war.
“War and insecurity are among two key factors behind the gender inequality. The number of illiterate women in Afghanistan are three times more than the illiterate men and the main reason is the ongoing war that our country is grappling with. If there was no war and violence, millions of girls and women in this land would be doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers and social activists, but today we can see that they are still facing deprivation and sorrow,” said Ghani.
He also said women are the real defenders of peace.
He did however call on Afghan women to submit their recommendations for peace to government.
“The holding of this symposium which is organized under the theme “Afghan Women; Messengers of Peace” in-fact is echoing our positive response to our Islamic principles and the continuity of our national traditions. Over the course of centuries, the women in our country have been the real supporters of life and peace and we still need to take their views about peace into consideration. Therefore I request them to gather their opinions and codify it. I request from the Afghan women and participants at this symposium to offer their recommendations about peace to the government and the nation. I strongly believe that understanding the views of women about national issues and other spheres related to governance have got major importance,” Ghani said.
He said that the Afghan constitution which represents the identity of all Afghan citizens has also certified the rights of citizens of the country including the women’s rights.
“Our constitution is the most credible document which certifies our national integration, national and Islamic identity and the rights of our people. Undoubtedly, the real peace is applicable at that time where the people of Afghanistan including men and the women feel that their rights are protected from all sorts of invasion. We have strong commitment that only within the framework of the constitution and the protection of rights of our peace, long term peace can be established in the country.” Ghani said.
In addition, Ghani defended the recent peace accord the government signed with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami and said that to restore peace, first we need to develop the commitment for it.
“Peace and stability are the fundamental aspirations of the people in Afghanistan. Over the recent years, you witnessed that a major step was taken toward peace, at the peace gathering, I told Hizb-e-Islami that to reach peace, we need to have commitment, determination, and the recognition and respect for the law,” he said.
UNAMA meanwhile said in a statement that as half the population, the empowerment of Afghan women and girls is essential to ensure their full participation in the political and social life, and help realize Afghanistan’s full potential.
“Women and girls also have a variety of roles in the home, community and nation that are critical to the promotion of peace,” the statement read.
The Afghan government has pledged to increase the presence of women in government institutions to 30 per cent by the year 2020. “We hope that this goal will be achieved,” read their statement.