Ahead of International Peace Day, AWN calls for Afghan women’s inclusion in peace process

Ahead of the International Day of Peace, which is observed around the world on September 21 to strengthen the ideals of peace, Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) released a policy brief on Thursday.

The policy brief, which makes a strong pitch for the inclusion of Afghan women in government’s peace process and their role as proficient peace builders, was released at a press conference in Kabul.

The policy brief, titled ‘why women as peace negotiators/ peace builder’, notes that the Afghan women, despite their relentless struggle over the years for inclusion in the peace process, remain “underrepresented”.

The current peace process, it says, is characterized by inequality with “over-representation of men and almost total absence of women”.

According to the AWN policy brief, there is no foolproof way to find out how women in the High Peace Council (HPC) and Provincial Peace Councils (PPC) are “contributing and raising women’s needs”.

The policy brief, which makes a strong pitch for the inclusion of Afghan women in government’s peace process and their role as proficient peace builders, was released at a press conference in Kabul

“It is believed they hardly have negotiations, consultation, information sharing and lobbying skills to push and continue their representations,” it states.

Expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in the country, the brief says women continue to be the victims of violence and vulnerable because the government “hardly consults them for their needs, the challenges they face and their contribution to directly or indirectly address increased insecurity and culture of extremism”.

In this policy brief, AWN highlights the examples of many successful women peace builders at the global level. The outcome, it says, will be shared through round table discussions on ‘why women as peace negotiators/ peace builders’.

It highlights a case from central Wardak province where a brave woman peace builder reached out to local armed insurgents to demand the re-opening of two girls’ schools.

In another case from southwestern Nimroz province, a ‘barely educated’ woman approached local insurgents and negotiated for peace in the restive province.

“While women members of HPC and PPC in formal structures hardly find ways for consultations and informal negotiations, women outside these structures are practicing this on daily basis,” it reads.

The policy brief also highlights the cases from Guatemala and Liberia where women played an instrumental role in pushing ahead the agenda of peace and reconciliation.

AWN, in order to ensure that the women are adequately represented in peace negotiations, proposes five key strategies.

First, it calls for an end to “the culture of tokenism, nepotism, or elitism” urges the government to select women representatives in the upcoming peace negotiations “on the basis of their knowledge of the issues, their speaking skills, and their decision-making, negotiation, mediation, and consensus building skills”.

Second, it calls for “broadening participation in peace negotiations through observer status”, which can allow women to “influence the negotiating parties through a more informal mechanism”.

Third, in order to make peace process more inclusive, it calls for “establishing a consultation mechanism with a sustainable implementation plan.

Four, it wants “mentorship and technical support” to women peace negotiators by international organizations and donors as part of their mandate.

Finally, it says the women representatives from different walks of life should “mobilize themselves and join inclusive actions related to peace negotiations”.

Last week, AWN had organized a round-table conference in Kabul on the theme “why women as peace builders or peace negotiators”.

Participants, who included many senior women’s rights activists called for the inclusion of women in Afghan government’s peace process, citing examples of women who have played a role in facilitating peace in other countries.

Finally, it says the women representatives from different walks of life should “mobilize themselves and join inclusive actions related to peace negotiations”

To emphasize the importance of women’s role in peace-building initiatives, the United Nations also started a series of nationwide events in Afghanistan last week.

The events are organized as part of the UN’s Global Open Days initiative, which seeks to raise awareness about the role of women in peace building and conflict resolution.

The initiative was first launched in 2010 on the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which recognizes the importance of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment to achieve the goals of peace and development.

Meanwhile, the resumption of peace talks looks highly unlikely at the moment as the relations between Kabul and Islamabad have again soured in recent weeks, especially since the deadly bombings in Kabul.

According to sources in the government, efforts are underway to revive the talks but no official confirmation has come from senior Afghan government officials.