Saturday, 5 February 2011

Afghan women need equal seat at peace table

I went to an interesting lecture by Zainab Salbi at the LSE about the need for women in Afghanistan to participate fully in peace negotiations in their country. Salbi is the founder and CEO of Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organisation helping women survivors of wars rebuild their lives. 

After a decade of war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, US and UK governments are talking about bringing their troops back in the near future.  As the Taliban is unlikely to be defeated, the Afghan government has started negotiating with hardline militia.  And Afghan women fear this will be at the detriment of their hard-won rights.

While the treatment of Afghan women at the hands of the Taliban was cited as a key reason for invading the country, women’s rights are now seen as a secondary issue.

Salbi, who has testified before the US senate, says: "There is a clear, clear opinion (among US politicians) that women's rights were a) not that relevant and b) irreconcilable with peace in Afghanistan."

Women are excluded from taking full part in the peace negotiations, which will determine the future of their country.   “But progress and peace start with women,” said Salbi, who grew up in Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war.

 “There is no peace without women.”  Not only women bear the brunt of war, but they are the ones who keep families and communities together. They bring stability and help rebuild countries.

Women for Women International is demanding that women have an equal seat at the negotiating table and an equal voice in determining their future and the future of their country.  WFWI is circulating a petition, which will be presented to your Foreign Secretary of State, calling for urgent action so that Afghan women can play a full part in the peace negotiations.

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