Afghan women displayed handcrafts and other goods at a United Nations-backed exhibition that drew several hundred people in the country’s capital city of Kabul.
The three-day exhibition, funded by the UN and organized by the world body’s partners in Afghanistan, formally marked the International Day of Rural Women, established by the UN in December 2007 to recognize the critical contributions of rural women in enhancing development and eradicating poverty.
In his message for the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described rural women collectively as a force that can drive global progress. “Together, let us work to unleash the power of rural women by protecting their human rights, supporting their economic advancement and enabling them to fully contribute to our shared future,” said Mr. Ban.
At the opening of today’s Kabul exhibit, Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister for Women’s Affairs, Sayed Mojgan Mostafavi, said rural women are playing a critical role in the gricultural and economic growth of the country, but still face many social, political and vocational challenges.
“There is need for a permanent space for such exhibitions so that the rural products can find a market in the cities,” said Ms. Mostafavi. “The Ministry of Women’s Affairs trained 80,000 women in different skills during the past several years, but these women face great challenges in finding jobs.”
Ms. Mostafavi noted that the government is working with an in-country donor on US$500 million in funding, out of which US$200 million will be invested in capacity-building initiatives specifically designed to empower rural women.
Following the minister’s remarks, Fawzia Kofi, a member of parliament, pointed out that enhancing the role of women in the political life of Afghanistan will not be possible without first focusing on vocational realities and helping women move toward economic self-reliance. “Unless Afghan women become economically empowered, they cannot be politically empowered,” she said.
The exhibit, held in Barbar garden in Kabul’s city centre, is expected to run through 17 October, with women entrepreneurs from the provinces of Nangarhar, Bamyan, Parwan, Herat and Balkh showing and selling their locally made products, such as clothing, household goods and food.