The United Nations in Afghanistan marks International Women’s Day under the global theme of “I Am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” to leverage individual and collective efforts to make gender equality and women’s rights a living reality.
The UN in a press release said that in comparison to male counterparts, Afghan women earn less, have fewer choices, have less access to formal justice and face multiple and unique forms of marginalization, violence and harassment – despite the benefits of gender equality not being just for women but for everyone whose lives would improve by a fairer world.
“To create a peaceful and inclusive society, it is essential that Afghan women have access to education, healthcare and decent work, and that they are fully represented in all areas of political decision-making, from parliament to the peace table,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“While we have seen significant progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan, including formal legislation and national action plans, we continue to see powerful social and political pushback,” said Yamamoto, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). “This situation must change for Afghan women, and for the benefit of Afghanistan as a nation.”
In Afghanistan, with anticipation building that the door for intra-Afghan peace talks will open, women’s advocacy groups and activists across Afghanistan have focused on developing strategies to protect and advance the gains they have made in Afghanistan’s social, political, civic and economic life.
“These strategies, backed by the United Nations and coupled with the growing recognition that women must be included in any formal peace negotiations, are expected to yield results: country-wide and community-level ownership, along with the full and meaningful participation in political decision-making among all members of society,” the press release reads.
“Realizing women’s rights requires transforming power relations and structural inequalities in public and private spheres,” said Aleta Miller, UN Women Representative in Afghanistan. “We need to engage a range of partners to transform society’s norms and expectations – not just the women’s rights advocates but the private sector, media, faith leaders, and whole communities.”
This year will also mark other galvanizing moments in the gender-equality movement: the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security; and the 10th anniversary of UN Women’s establishment.
“Recognizing that Afghanistan will be more resilient in the face of conflict when gender equality is prioritized, the United Nations will continue to support all efforts toward gender equality and all opportunities for women to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society,” the press release added.