Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and Cordaid, a leading Dutch relief and development organization hosted a virtual discussion on Afghan women’s role in the upcoming intra-Afghan talks on July 28, 2020. Panelists included former Ambassador of Afghanistan to Norway Shukria Barakzai; former Afghan Minister of Mines, Petroleum and Industries Nargis Nehan; former UN Special Envoy to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria Staffan de Mistura; and Director of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of Stability and Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Marriët Schuurman.
Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director of Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security moderated the panel. She opened up the discussion by stating “this is a particularly critical moment to call world attention to the importance of Afghan women’s meaningful participation in the anticipated peace talks because the stakes are high for Afghanistan, the region and the international community.”
Former Ambassador Shukria Barakzai expressed that “the current peace process is not a peace process because it is lacking the nation’s voice.” She added, “what kind of peace is it when they are marginalizing 60% of the country?” Madeleine Albright also noted during her remarks that “peace cannot be made on the backs of Afghan women. The best way to ensure that does not happen is for women to fully participate in the peace process. Women need to be a party to the negotiation, not just an issue to be discussed.” Former Ambassador Shukria Barakzai stated that negotiators must be aware that “when four women are facing 45 men (at the negotiating table) this is injustice.”
Participants called for national and international officials to ensure Afghan women’s meaningful participation in an inclusive peace process and to preserve Afghan women’s rights. “The future rights and role of women in Afghanistan must be a priority and that starts with their substantive involvement in the peace process,” said the former U.S. Secretary of State. They also demanded international assistance and funding to support women’s rights during and after the intra-Afghan talks, the inclusion of Afghan civil society women’s groups, youth groups, minorities, the private sector, academics, and other segments of society.
They asked the international community to oversee the peace process and assess the Afghan government to make sure it fulfills its commitments to support women’s rights and their meaningful participation, and have a sufficient exit strategy that will promote lasting peace from the international community. Nargis Nehan also explained that “oversimplification of the peace process by only including the Taliban is very dangerous. The settlement will not be getting us anywhere and it will rather be a quick fix with a temporary direction and permanent handing over of Afghanistan to the Taliban that none of us want.”
While talking about the concerns of Afghan women, the participants were hopeful. “The resilience, courage, and leadership of Afghan women is a story of hope. They are not victims, but agents in their own right with a diversity of opinions. The international community should be there to lend support. It should be a shared commitment with the equal participation of Afghan women on the ground,” said Ambassador Marriët Schuurman. “As for cooperating with the Taliban: the Afghan women are ready to teach the Taliban how to be a good citizen”.
Sources: GIWPS, 07/30/20