Women’s participation in decision-making will ensure development and peace efforts will move forward, said religious scholars and community leaders at a UN-backed debate in Sharana, capital of the southeastern Paktika province.
The event, facilitated by the regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), brought together more than 30 people, including women’s rights activists, students, community leaders and media professionals, and was broadcast through local TV and radio outlets, including national outlet Shamshad TV, reaching an audience estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
Religious scholar and deputy director of the province’s Education Department, Mohammad Karim Atalwal, said there is misunderstanding about women’s rights in Afghanistan, especially in terms of education.
“Let’s steer our lives into the right track, and not only involve women in decision-making but facilitate their access to their human, constitutional and Sharia rights,” Mr. Atalwal stressed, calling women’s empowerment and protection against violence an obligation of community elders, clerics, social activists and media outlets.
Bibi Hawa Khoshewal, another panellist and the director of Women’s Affairs for the province, said only identifying problems will not improve women’s lives. Ms. Khoshewal said the problems must be systematically addressed and resolved properly by community leaders.
“Afghan women constitute more than half of our population, so there is no reason for them to be blocked from decision-making processes,” she said.
The participants agreed that men and women both have the same rights, and argued that culture and tradition must not stand in the way of women enjoying their rights at every level, including in education and other spheres of life.
Paktika, one of the most remote provinces of Afghanistan, is also one of the most traditionally conservative, and is also one of the least secure provinces in the country.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.