Positive peace and grassroots women’s proactive participation
“The key factors for building sustainable peace are grassroots women’s education and their proactive engagement in the process.” Rahela Sidiqi (8/3/2021)
The importance of women’s education.
Through the power of education and knowledge, women have become Heads of State or Government in 22 countries, and yet only 24.9 percent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years.In spite of the challenges they have faced, the achievement of Afghanistan’s women leaders in the peace and development process has been significant. However, they still have a long and uncertain path to walk and face many obstacles.
Afghan women in civil society, such as in the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), play a very effective role in engaging women from different walks of life. They work to establish coalitions and increase advocacy with calls for action via press releases, position papers,conferencesand discussion panels. This is a collective effort with around 150 umbrella organisations and individual members. As one of the founders of the AWN I would like to emphasisethe role it has played in supporting women to raise their voices. Conveying women’s demands and concerns to the negotiation team through meetings has been highly effective and has had a significant impact.
Educated Afghan women also contribute to the peace process through their activities in the socio-economic arena. They exert influence through representation in the Afghan Parliament – where they occupy 25% of the seats. They also make an impact in other walks of life, influencing changes to the policy and structure of the legal framework. For example, women leaders helped to shape the Afghan Constitution, civil service law, labour law, civil law and the elimination of violence against women.
Today we have 150 proactive charities and 1,700 female-led businesses, who mostly hire women as employees. For example, the Kandahar Treasure Company, whose owner Rangeena Hamidi is presently Minister of Education, has 120 female employees. Mohd, the owner of a pure juice company, has 10 female employees in his company.
Women leaders emerge through education, which in turn gives them the ability to recognize and correct wrongs in society. Educated female leaders have a voice and are able to influence the issues that affect women’s lives. The more female leaders there are, the more women will be lifted from poverty to stand on their own feet. Education enables them to influence the rights, roles and responsibilities that impact on women’s lives. Through the empowerment of female leaders, women’s constitutional rights in voting, education, employment and elsewhere can be implemented to the fullest extent.
Already the influence of women on the development and implementation of civil service, labour law and civil law has positively affected the opportunities for women’s employment and civil rights, butthere is a still a long way to go and many challenges.
Today,15.5m of Afghanistan’s 31.6m population are women. As half of the population they should participate significantly in the peace and development process. Afghan women’s achievements should be protected by the international, national, and regional authorities – and by the Taliban who are engaged in peace talks.
There are 4,000 women in the police force, and around3,000 in the army2. Over 6,000 women are judges, and there are 101,150 women in higher education.
There are 66,067 female teachers, 117 females in the private sector, 10 deputy ministers andfour Ambassadors, along with several women diplomats, and 24% of the Civil Service are women. Currently, 40% of primary school pupils are girls.
Moreover, there are thousands of women in sports, which was not previously common practice in Afghanistan. Several women have won medals, and Samia Ghulami is the first femaleTaekwondo fighterto win a gold medal in an international match. There are several other ‘firsts’ – the first pilot Nilofar Rahmani, the first mayor Uzra Jafari, the first woman journalist Asma Rasmia – and many others grassroots champions. Women at grassroot levels have seen remarkable achievements due to the benefit of education.
However, the focus should go beyond these numbers. There is need for support and investment on the ground for mothers and daughters’ education and engagement across rural Afghanistan.
The Rahela Trust’s19 BA and BSc scholars come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are practically contributing to support mother and daughter education in the community, university, and work environment. They are providing life-skills education to women in their local areas, to their classmates, and at their workplace. For example, Amina Omid, one of the graduate scholars of The Rahela Trust, is the director of a magazine called Hamasai Taghir. She mentors five scholars and helps raise awareness amongst mothers about girls’ education and ways of supporting their daughters. Negeena Saeedi, another Rahela Trustscholar, used her pocket money to help 30 mothers during Covid-19. This summer other scholars are working on changing societal attitudes towards women.
Women’s shelters in Kabul Mazar and Herathave been very helpful to women who face domestic violence. Several women’s sports and martial arts clubs have been established and are led by women, as a new type of women’s activities in Afghanistan. Liqa Isazada described her first visit to a martial arts club as ‘ inspiring’.
The 2021 UNICEFdescribes Basira, a 12th grade student in Kandahar, who teaches 18 schoolgirls in her local area.
“The international community still spends just $1 on conflict prevention for every $1,885 it spends on military budgets.” (Tina R Moul, 2016)
There are continued challenges to operating in many districts across Afghanistan due to war, conflict and fighting between the Government and insurgents. Girls’ schools have been burned or closed in some districts of Afghanistan where there is no security, and families are not allowing their daughters to travel too far to attend school.
- 7 million children are out of school! This is 42% of school children, but girls comprise at least over 60% of ‘out of school’ children. Women at state universities are 2% less in comparison to 2018. This could be because of insecurity or unavailability of state universities in rural provinces as the number of females at private sector universities hasincreased.
- Likewise, there has been a2% decrease in the number of state hospitals. A health practitioner who wished to remain anonymous said: “I am a nurse in Samangan. The clinics there have been closed for four months and the lives of new-born babies and pregnant mothers are at risk.
- One woman was due to deliver her baby but had to travel for two hours on a donkey to reach the hospital. When she arrived, the hospital’s doors were closed. She lost her life and her baby, after a four hour wait – due to snow, bleeding and cold weather!” Several women from Khost, Paktia, Paktika and Logar -all insecure areas-confirm that in most areas girls schools are closed and in areas not directly insecure, but nearby, mothers say they are afraid of sending their daughters to school.
- The Taliban claim that they will protect women’s rights under sharia law, but they don’t clearly state which form of sharia.Afghanistan is an Islamic country and its constitution is based on sharia law. The practice of sharia in Indonesia, for example, is permissive; it allows women to access education and, crucially, employment.
- Afghan women have already suffered enough due to war and violence. AWN research shows that 30% of women have been warned by men with guns to stop going to school and university. Over 90% of women who have guns in their household are too frightened to speak about their rights of marriage, education or work if it is denied by male family members.
- Sport and journalism are attractive careers among young women but they face obstacles in both due to social and traditional norms. For example, the director of a cycling unit, MsAbozai, in her Solo TV interview said that when girls went for cycling practice they received insults from some community members while car drivers and other (male) cyclists blockedthe Many female journalists have also been attacked. There are many systemic factors that impact on women who want to explore opportunities, ranging from hostility to lack of resources. Social-cultural, political and humanitarian crises havealso negatively impacted on women’s lives. Girls’ educationisparticularly affected – for example, by the shortageof female teachers, poor facilities and lack of appropriate sanitation at schools and universities. Issues like early marriage, traditional and social pressures are continuing challenges.
These obstacles can only be overcome by a comprehensive and organic approach tograssroots capacity building among women – and their active engagement in the peace process.Through education, starting at basic levels, systemic awareness and confidence can be nurtured so that women can become active participants in the peacebuilding process. This involves equipping them with valuable project management, fundraising and leadership skills. Through mentorship programmes, skills like peacebuilding, civic engagement and conflict resolution will empower them to become change-makers and peace leaders in Afghanistan.
We need to build a culture of sustainable, inclusive, and achievable peace in Afghan communities, starting from the household and expanding to communities and beyond. And lastly, we need to expand the network of women equipped to participate in peacebuilding in Afghanistan, through cooperation, confidence-building, and community engagement.
As Tina Roliolle Moul acknowledges, this will not be easy, taking into account the realities and constraints of poverty, the crisis situation, and the post conflict legacy.
International women’s day (2021), https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/international-womens-day?gclid=Cj0KCQiAyoeCBhCTARIsAOfpKxjzF7F5_1eQRfQCf visit on 5th March 2021
 Afghan Women Network Position paper series 93, (August,2019), Women Position for inter Afghan peace talk
 Achieving result for Afghanistan children,(2015-2021), Programme briefs (Education).pdf (unicef.org)
Photos: Afghan women assert themselves with martial arts | Sports-photos – Gulf News, visited on: 6 March 2021
 Tina Robiolle –Moul,( June, 2016), P EACE E D U C A T I O N I N F R A G I L E S TATES A c a s e s t u d y o f t h e i n f l u e n c e o f g l o b a l d i s c u s si o n s o f p e a c e e d u c a t i o n i n c o n f l i c t s e t ti n g s o n n a t i o n a l e d u c a t i o n p o l i c y a n d l o c a l N G O e f f o r t s i n A f g h a n i s t a n, , Tina Robiolle – Google Scholar visited: 7 March 2021
 Achieving result for Afghanistan children,(2015-2021), Programme briefs (Education).pdf (unicef.org)
 Office of Statistic 3rd quarter 2019 report. گزارشادارۀملیاحصائیهومعلومات؛ ازافزایشکارکنانخدماتملکیتاکاهشمحصلیندانشگاههایدولتی (avapress.com)
 Author telephone communication in Samangan: Telephone message 15th Feb 2021
 Author telephone communication with ananunemus person in Khost province.
 (John R. Allen & Vanda Felbab-Brown, September 2020) The fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan (brookings.edu), Visit on 4th March 2021
Tina Robiolle -Moul, (June,2012), Peace Education in fragile state, Tina Robiolle – Google Scholar, visited 6 March 2021
Affect of illegal weapon and violence against women, AWN-UNwomen October 2020, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bNJdMzVC3M9_zl-G3lUv0YHNYkzf3t3B/view?usp=sharing
 Tina Robiolle Moul, (2017), Promotion and implementation of global citizenship education in crisis situations; 2017 (gcedclearinghouse.org)