Celebrated for over 100 years in numerous countries around the world, International Women’s Day is an occasion to recognize women for their achievements. Victims of all types of violence, they struggle on a daily basis for better access to land, education, work, credit, and property. During its 45 years of existence, Development and Peace has seen how important it is to promote equality between women and men and to implicate women in creating sustainable alternatives to unjust social, political and economic structures.
In Afghanistan, Development and Peace has been working for several years with the Afghan Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC), an organization that contributes to the empowerment of Afghan women and the protection of Afghan children. It offers programs in education, health, capacity building and income-generating activities. Partawmina Hashemee is one of these courageous women. A founding member of AWRC, she is living proof of the key role women are playing in the reconstruction of her country.
What can we say about the current situation of women in Afghanistan?
Currently in Afghanistan, women are relatively enjoying their rights by having access to education and health services, holding public office, running businesses, serving in the army and police, running for election and so on. Nevertheless, continuing conflict, insecurity, poverty, cultural barriers, inadequate judiciary and law enforcement systems, and poor education and health services are crucial challenges that directly affect the lives of Afghan women, and undermine their capacity and determination to take an active part in the reconstruction of the country.
Can we say that Afghan women are playing a role in the rebuilding process of the country?
Yes, without a doubt. Afghan women are playing a vital role in the rehabilitation process of Afghanistan. They are actively involved in social, political and economic affairs.
If yes, is their role valued within the society?
Unfortunately, their role is not as valued as it should be. Despite certain victories, the participation of women is still not considered as important in key national and international decision-making forums. We don’t want to see any losses on the gains that women have made in the last ten years. If we lose ground, we could even get even further behind from our initial starting point.
For the past ten years, what have been the greatest strides forward for Afghan women?
Since the fall of Taliban in 2001, the position of women in Afghanistan has improved significantly. While women’s positions vary within the country, they are active in all sectors and are working alongside men whether in the capital, the provinces, districts and villages. The government does not restrict their mobility, nor impedes women from being educated or benefitting from health services.
The most prominent achievements of Afghan women are related to the adoption of the Constitution of Afghanistan under which all the citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law. It is also due to our contribution to the establishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). Another victory is the ratification and signing of international laws and conventions by the government of Afghanistan and the launch of a 10-year National Action Plan for Women (NAPWA) and other national wide action plans. Finally, the participation and involvement of Afghan women in provincial and national elections, in parliament and on the Peace High Council are truly big victories for us.
What gives you strength to continue your work?
Both the achievements of Afghan women, as well as the challenges they still have to overcome provide me with the strength to continue my work.
What would be your message to all women on this International Women’s Day 2013?
Since the fall of Taliban, despite of all the existing hurdles and challenges, we Afghan women are doubling our efforts to rebuild our communities, participate in public life and contribute to sustaining peace and democracy in Afghanistan. So, on the event of International Women’s Day, we are asking that all women’s groups and women advocating for the recognition of women’s rights around the world join our efforts to ensure that the international community does not allow our gains to be traded in peace negotiations. We are asking for their continued support and commitment towards the empowerment of Afghan women beyond West’s disengagement in Afghanistan in 2014.