|credit: Women for Women International|
Ten years ago this week, the US and allies including the UK invaded Afghanistan - a move they justified in part with promises to defend women’s rights. A decade on, Afghanistan remains one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to be a woman.
Now, the countries that led the invasion back in 2001 are attempting to sit down at the negotiating table with the Taliban. And Afghan women fear that Western governments will sacrifice their rights and safety to reach an elusive deal with the Taliban.
In December, Foreign Secretary William Hague will represent the UK at discussions about the Afghanistan peace process. Organisations, such as Amnesty International UK, CARE International UK, Oxfam GB and Women for Women International UK, are urging the Foreign Secretary to ensure that Afghan women’s hard won but fragile rights do not become a bargaining chip to be traded away in the name of peace and that Afghan women are included in peace negotiations.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK said "The peace process in Afghanistan mustn’t mean putting a price on women’s rights. These are non-negotiable. They’re the ‘red lines’ that the Afghan community, Nato and countries like the UK must insist on."
Millions of Afghan women and girls have seen progress in their lives since 2001: two and a half million girls are enrolled in school, women can work outside their homes, while the constitution grants women and men equal rights.
Yet Afghanistan remains one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to be a woman. Their rights are weakly enforced, most women still have limited access to basic services such as healthcare and education, and they face risks from violence and conflict. This is particularly true for the brave women who are active in public life; they face intimidation and the threat of violence on a daily basis.
In addition, women’s voices have been largely silenced in the search for a peace deal.
Shaheen Chugtai, Humanitarian Policy Advisor, Oxfam GB said: “A just and lasting peace is necessary in order to improve the lives of all Afghans. We have to remind William Hague and the international community that the best way of achieving such as peace is by making sure that Afghan women are meaningfully involved at all levels of negotiation and that explicit guarantees of their constitutional rights are built into any peace deal.”
Amnesty is urging all of us to take action and tell our government not to trade away women’s rights. You can do this here.
Besides Amnesty International UK, CARE International UK, Oxfam GB and Women for Women International UK, the coalition of organisations are members of Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS). They also include ActionAid UK, International Action Network on Small Arms, Northern Ireland Women’s European Coalition, Saferworld, Soroptimist International UK, United Nations Association UK, UN Women UK, Womankind Worldwide and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. GAPS campaigns under No women, no peace and is petitioning the UK to honour commitments to women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Supporters will wear green scarves and participate in candlelit vigils on 31st October in solidarity with women in Afghanistan. Click here for more details.