1. TOP
  2. 資料館
  3. FOCUS
  4. June 2003 - Volume 32
  5. Building the Future with Women: The Challenges of National Reconstruction in Afghanistan

 
Powered by Google


FOCUS Archives


FOCUS June 2003 Volume 32

Building the Future with Women: The Challenges of National Reconstruction in Afghanistan

Fatana Gailani

A transitional government was established in Afghanistan in mid-2002, more than six months after the Bonn Agreement was adopted. It is tasked to facilitate the adoption of a new constitution for the country and hold nation-wide elections. It is governed by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

President Hamid Karzai has been heading the transitional government since its establishment. Various government offices were created including the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a United Nations-mandated operation, helps the transitional government maintain security in the country.

In June 2002, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) was established to monitor and investigate human rights violations, develop and implement human rights education programs, and propose a national strategy to address justice and past abuses issues. Afghanistan's ex-minister for women's affairs, Ms. Sema Samar, heads it.

General situation

Security remains a major concern in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. Warlords are still in power and people fear the breakdown of the fragile security arrangements. ISAF cannot adequately respond to the need for security. Too much focus has been given to Kabul city for the past one year while the rest of the country derives no appreciable benefit. There is resistance among sections of the Afghan society to a long-term presence of ISAF in the country. They want the UN to replace US-led ISAF for peacekeeping work. The UN must take the lead in the demilitarization of the regions and pressuring the warlords to discard their weapons and respect the rights of the Afghans. The flow of weapons from the neighboring countries has not stopped, which contributes to the continuing dominance of the warlords. The development of an all-Afghan army addresses this issue and would satisfy the Afghans' desire to have full control of their own national army.

The promises made by Mr. Karzai to the members of the emergency Loya Jirga have not been fulfilled. These promises include the reduction of the number of Cabinet members (which has actually expanded), creation of employment opportunities for eligible people, taking away the power of the warlords, freedom for various political parties, immediate rehabilitation of the economy, improving the security situation of the country, and addressing human rights (in particular women's rights) issues.

Competent and well known Afghans have not been given government positions. It is very important for the government to include a wide variety of people in the government and in pursuing the peace process to make them more sustainable and effective.

Situation of women

The situation of women and girls has improved somewhat since the fall of the Taliban. In some parts of the country, they can only get out of their houses wearing veil (chadari). Unfortunately, the world media focuses only on this issue and tends to undermine other issues. The women's contribution to peace-building and reconstruction has been under-utilized and has not been recognized at the community, national and international levels. During the reign of King Shah, women were already occupying responsible positions in society. They were working in the government, in the parliament and in the different sectors of society. They were in school as students and teachers. They were doctors, engineers, and other professionals. This means that Afghan women are capable of doing important tasks if the opportunity is provided. The ensuing 24-year conflict brought the status of women down. Since the Soviet occupation, they were shunted aside by the rulers - be they the Soviets, the local leaders, or the Taliban. The post-Taliban situation has not significantly improved the status of women. The local warlords are not giving women due recognition and role.

Poor gender policy in the government and limited opportunity in the programs of the UN agencies and international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) relegate Afghan women to non-influential positions such as secretaries and receptionists. There is a lack of recognition of the potentials and skills of these women and there is no opportunity for them to build on and increase their capacity in various fields. Women must be trained and brought into decision-making levels in all sectors. There should not be any restriction on employment of Afghan women at any level.

Afghan women have limited access to health, education and employment opportunities. Facilities are very limited. Due to various reasons, it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to mobilize them.

Awareness programs and vigorous advocacy are needed to facilitate the political participation of Afghan women. A new law provides that women, on an equal basis with men, are entitled to vote in any election, run for any elective office, hold any public office, and exercise any public function. This law should be used as basis for women's participation in Afghanistan's national reconstruction program.

The Afghan women struggled for their rights over the years. Their voices have been heard in various venues. Now they believe that they should be recognized as key participants in the prevention of armed conflict and violence, and in the post-conflict reconstruction of the society. They must participate in the social, political, and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is repatriating refugees from Pakistan and Iran on a voluntary basis. There are conflicting reports on the number of refugees repatriated to Afghanistan. Numerous refugees are skeptical of statements attesting to government stability. The government of Pakistan, on the other hand, demolished the refugee camps and has been pushing refugees to return to Afghanistan. Refugees are virtually forced to go back to their country. In Kabul, most of refugees live in "container" houses shared by two to three families. This is a clear evidence of inadequate capacity of the Afghan government to provide the basic needs of the refugees. The UNHCR and other agencies should work on this issue before repatriating the refugees.

There is a suggestion to allow Afghan refugees to resettle in other countries if they cannot safely go back home in Afghanistan for security and other legitimate reasons. Many refugees are still reluctant to return to Afghanistan due to various problems such as discrimination on the basis of religion, gender and ethnic background. This fear is supported by reports of violation of human rights of some returnees. The government, with the support of the UNHCR, has to establish a monitoring system to prevent such violations from occurring.

Another issue that dissuades refugees from returning to Afghanistan is the existence of landmines and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) in various parts of the country. Although there are a number of NGOs operating under the United Nations Mine Action Programme (MAPA) umbrella, the demand is greater than the capacity. The effort to increase the capacity of the demining programs all over Afghanistan should be reviewed. A number of returnees have died or were maimed by the explosion of these bombs. These incidents seriously affected the confidence among refugees to return back to Afghanistan. Many of those who returned to Afghanistan decided to go back to Pakistan.

Education

Education must remain high on the agenda of any government in Afghanistan. It is the main area requiring funding in recognition of the long-term process involved. Considering that access to education is a fundamental right of every Afghan girl and boy, more schools should be built, and new curricula must be developed to remain abreast of modern thinking and technology.

Due to significant lack of professionally qualified Afghans in the country, attracting qualified Afghans in other countries must go beyond short-term objective. There is a clear need to address the longer term. More teachers, materials, and books are needed. But for the development of the education system to prosper, security and stability must exist.

International supporters and donors

International support for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan exists. In the March 2002 Tokyo conference, supporting countries pledged millions of US dollars to support programs for the supply of food for the widows in Kabul, health and child care, demining and mine awareness activities, international security forces, among others. Many international agencies provide support too.

An effective monitoring system to evaluate how money is spent and its impact and continuous assessment of NGO program implementation is necessary. This will facilitate improvement and general efficiency of the aid programs.

Donors should focus more on the long-term programs for Afghanistan. There is no short-term solution and there is no room for short-term commitment. The international community should not leave Afghanistan and Afghan people alone. But their programs should involve the Afghan people, including women, in the process of rehabilitating their country to ensure the sustainability of the process. Donor countries are urged to consider funding projects and agencies based on gender balance at beneficiary and implementation levels. It is necessary to develop indigenous capacity at all levels.

Conclusion

The promises made at the Bonn conference are valuable and have been accepted by the Afghans. They must be implemented soon. The Afghans accepted the six-month transitional government in the hope that a democratic election will be held soon, where people will have chance to elect their own representatives in government. Unfortunately, intellectuals and national figures are excluded from this process. The Afghans desire to have an elected and democratic government free of warlords and with the full support of the silent majority. This seems to be the only solution to realize meaningful national reconstruction.

Afghan women are the ones who have suffered significantly through the decades of war. They are the ones who lost their husbands, brothers, children and families. They suffered from the crimes and atrocities committed not only by the Talibans but also by the warlords.

Afghan women have demonstrated that despite the hardship and tough policies of various governments over the years, they have kept the struggle to bring peace, security, justice and democracy.

Now, the women of Afghanistan are potentially stronger than ever. Many are now aware of human rights and their own rights, thanks to the work of the majority of Afghan women NGOs. They believe that through a democratic government they can achieve full rights, protection and participation in the country.

The rehabilitation of the returnee-families at the village level requires adequate resources and guarantee of security. The returnees must be confident of their security and the protection of their basic rights. A human rights monitoring system is needed in this regard. Only when these conditions are met will Afghan refugees be encouraged to return.


Ms Fatana Gailani is the Chairperson of the Afghanistan Women Council (AWC).

For further information please contact: Afghanistan Women Council (AWC) House No. 53, St. 11, J-1, Phase II, Hayatabad, Peshawar, Pakistan (or G.P.O. Box No. 1215, Peshawar, Pakistan , ph (9291) 812259; fax ( 9291) 812138, 812259; e-mail: awc2@psh.paknet.com.pk; www.afghanwomenssupport.org; www.afghanistanwomenconcil.org


To the page top