A study by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) and the United Nations (UN) Women found that while women have demands for a future Afghanistan that respects their rights, their role has been “mainly symbolic” till now.
The study, titled “Women’s Participation in the Afghan Peace Process” that was released on Monday, found that lasting peace is only possible where women’s voices and views are included through the process.
“Therefore, women’s participation in and support of the national peace efforts is vitally important,” the study advises.
In their review of literature, they found that between 1990 and 2014 as many as 130 peace agreements were signed with only 13 peace agreements with women in a signatory authority.
All agreements with women as participants at a signatory level were more durable than the agreements only signed by men.
Additionally, the involvement of women in peace processes resulted in a stronger integration of human rights, transitional justice, national reconciliation, and subsequent women’s involvement in the decision-making processes at the local and national levels.
The study recommends that both the Afghan government and the international community must closely look at the perception people have about women’s “meaningful participation” in national peace.
It presents the findings from 77 qualitative interviews with women and men in Kabul, Bamiyan, Balkh, and Nangarhar provinces.
“Interviews reveal that so far, the role of women has been mainly symbolic,” the paper says.
However, women have found creative ways to maximise what they can do in the confines of the space where they operate. This includes basic awareness-raising about peace, but also engaging in direct talks with anti-government elements.
The study also found that the main barriers to women’s political participation was the profusion of society based violence against women, ideological barriers and cultural norms that have actively excluded women from political and social spaces and roles, male established and dominated political and social structures that confine women to symbolic positions, insecurity that adversely affects women’s ability to move freely, and traditional barriers such as low levels of literacy and poverty.
Arguments used against women’s political participation are often religious, but findings from the interviews with religious scholars showed that there is no religious restriction to women participating in the peace efforts.
Many respondents expressed their fear and distrust about the Taliban and their concerns about the international community’s lack of commitment toward women’s rights and women’s participation in the peace process.
Regardless of participation in many platforms for peace, like the National Jirga for peace, women still lack meaningful participation, decision-making power, and equal rights as men benefit from.
The study recommended that the Afghan government works on a National Priority Program (NPP) on women’s political participation with clearly defined goals and objective as well as resources and funding to address the challenges that women are facing across provinces
The government should actively support women’s meaningful participation in national peace efforts and should guarantee no less than 33% of women on the negotiation team.
The report also recommends that the government should involve women at the leadership level of the High Council for National Reconciliation where they would have decision-making power, with at least two of the deputies of the council as women.