Afghan Women’s Summit Announces Reconstruction Recommendations

The Afghan Women’s Summit for Democracy concluded in Brussels by issuing a proclamation announcing its demands and recommendations for the successful reconstruction of Afghan society. The recommendations addressed a broad array of issues including education, media, and culture, health, human rights and the constitution, as well as refugees and internally displaced women.

In regard to education, summit participants called on leaders to reopen schools for both girls and boys throughout Afghanistan by March 2002, make provisions to meet the educational needs of orphans and homeless children, and provide adequate public education through various media outlets. They also urged for a comprehensive school curriculum based on international standards and that includes conflict resolution courses. Participants noted the benefit of education in promoting the empowerment of women as well as democratic values. “Education and culture transcend the reality of our lives,” the “Brussels Proclamation states. “Their healing power and creative energy could act as a catalyst for peace and as an antidote to our national wounds by safeguarding our cultural heritage from disappearance.”

The proclamation also urges women to be included in the development of health programs for Afghanistan and called on donor agencies to assist by helping to provide necessary medicines, equipment, food supplies, and water and sanitation systems. Summit participants also called for the re-establishment of health centers, hospitals, and training centers in urban and rural areas, with the opportunity for medical students to have training abroad, and the establishment of programs for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, drug addiction, serious diseases, and disabilities.

Referring to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the Beijing Platform of Action, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and other international agreements, the Afghan Women’s Summit called for the establishment of a safe and secure environment for women and girls. To this end, Summit participants demanded the inclusion of women in all stages of the reconstruction process, including the loya jirga (grand assembly), the disarmament and demining of Afghanistan, and protection from gender-based abuse such as the trafficking in women.

The proclamation makes clear the demand to use local non-governmental organizations as a means of distributing donor funding to promote “sustainable peace.” The proclamation also cautioned against forced repatriation of Afghan refugees, noting that Afghan refugees make up the largest refugee population in the world and that Afghanistan is still in an unstable state. Summit participants called for an increase in education and income-generating programs for refugees and internally displaced people as well as programs designed to meet the basic needs of the population, including healthcare services, birth control and family planning services, and education on preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

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Afghan WomenÕs Summit for Democracy, ÒThe Brussels ProclamationÓ

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