Inclusive peace in Afghanistan means ‘women at the centre’ urges UN deputy chief in Kabul

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Inclusive peace in Afghanistan means ‘women at the centre’ urges UN deputy chief in Kabul

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The UN deputy chief issued an impassioned plea on Sunday for Afghans to reconcile with the past and put “women at the centre” of all efforts to forge a durable peace, and a truly inclusive political process where women’s voices are truly heard.

Amina Mohammed was speaking to reporters in the capital Kabul, after leading an all-women delegation of top UN officials for an intensive two-day “solidarity mission”, focussed on women, peace and security. She was joined by UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem, and the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The Deputy Secretary-General said they had come ahead of the key presidential election, due to take place at the end of September, but also to lend their support for a peace process “which is integral to the future, and the sustainability of all the efforts and aspirations, the Government and people of Afghanistan have.”

Only a few days ago, a bomb attack just outside Kabul University, reportedly killed 10 people - students and a traffic officer - and wounded 33 others, while Taliban militants reportedly detonated a bomb outside police headquarters in Kandahar city, killing 11 and wounding nearly 90. Despite the on-going violence, Afghan political leaders held ground-breaking talks in Qatar earlier this week with Taliban representatives, with both sides calling for a reduction in civilian casualties.

“At the end of two days we have been impressed with the leadership at all levels of government from Kabul out to the local areas, where you see that there is an investment in people, in particular in women’s empowerment’, said Ms. Mohammed.

The high-level UN delegation held meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday, and also met a diverse group of women, hosted by Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani. They also met religious leaders, who have a crucial role to play in bolstering the peace process.

On Sunday, the delegation travelled outside Kabul to the province of Bamyan, where UNFPA is running a series of support programmes and services for women of reproductive age and families, as well as tackling gender based violence (GBV). They also visited a UN demining site, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Buddhas of Bamyan, which were dynamited and destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, which ruled the country until the allied invasion later that year.

The deputy chief said her face-to-face conversations with Afghan women during the mission had left her with no doubt that women are “in leadership roles, decision making, they know exactly where they want to go - and what they need from us is support”, she told reporters.

“We have heard from them many messages: on the elections, that they must be credible, they must be timely, they must be inclusive, and their voices must be heard."

“On the peace process”, she continued, it had to be inclusive: “And inclusive means women at the centre”, especially when it comes to addressing the needs of victims of violence. 

“You cannot address peace and its sustainability, if you cannot come to terms with reconciling the past. So this has been an incredibly important opportunity for us”, said the Deputy Secretary-General, noting that during the trip they had also been gratified to see “the gains of the investments that have been made by the UN system and its partners over the years.”

We'll back Afghan women 'at every step' - UN Women chief.

The head of UN Women said that she had been struck by talking to women who had lived with the “oppressive legacy of the Taliban’s rule – which banned them from attending school, work or even speaking publicly or leaving the house without a man.”

“These same women have consistently and courageously advocated for their voices to be heard, their priorities to be addressed and their agency to be recognized”, said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “And they do not stand alone, because UN Women and the UN, are here to back them up at every step.”

She said that as the momentum builds for peace talks with the Taliban, “ensuring women’s meaningful participation in the peace and reconciliation process and in the upcoming elections is more urgent than ever. Women must be able to exercise their right to define what peace means for them, and to have a seat at the table where the future of the country is being negotiated”, said the Executive Director. “Only then we will really see durable peace and democracy flourish in Afghanistan.”

Click here to read the full article published by UN News on 21 July 2019.

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