Declaring, “Women must be central to all phases of the recovery efforts and that the interest of women must be taken into account in all interventions,” Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) opened UNIFEM’s roundtable on women’s leadership in rebuilding Afghanistan. Afghan women leaders from the UN sponsored talks in Bonn and the Afghan Women’s Summit for Democracy as well as leaders representing women’s rights groups worldwide, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, attended the roundtable, which was co-sponsored by the Belgian government.
Participants in the two-day conference will discuss the inclusion of women in the reconstruction and peace processes in Afghanistan as well as providing for women’s economic security and physical safety, including the development of job training initiatives and initiatives to end violence against women. In the first day of meetings, Heyzer highlighted the need to support the newly formed Ministry of Women in Afghanistan and the need to create “gender-justice” within Afghan society. Heyzer also called for the full integration of women into all humanitarian projects and programs operating within Afghanistan and urged that no funding be given to any programs that do not include women.