From Rhetoric to Reality: Afghan Women on the Agenda for Peace

Authored by: Masuda Sultan

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Human Development, International Agreements, International Law, Peace Accords, Peacemaking, Political Transitions, Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Country: Afghanistan
Region: South and Central Asia
Year: 2005
Citation: Sultan, Masuda. From Rhetoric to Reality: Afghan Women on the Agenda for Peace. Cambridge, MA: Hunt Alternatives Fund; Women Waging Peace Policy Commission, 2005

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Executive Summary

More than three years after the 2001 US-led war against the Taliban, Afghanistan remains unstable and is moving unsteadily toward democracy. Although presidential elections took place in October 2004 and parliamentary elections are planned for fall 2005, broad national commitment to democratic rule is lacking. Similarly, despite the international community’s unprecedented focus on women in Afghanistan— where for the first time women’s rights were used as a justification for international intervention—their status remains virtually unchanged, their future uncertain. Nonetheless, there is hope for both democracy and the status of women in Afghanistan. The October 2004 presidential election demonstrated women’s willingness to participate in the democratic process; in at least three provinces female voters outnumbered male voters, and some 40 percent of the voters nationwide were women. The upcoming parliamentary elections will provide the next opportunity to ensure women a place in governance structures and to give women a voice in an emerging democracy. This paper examines the effectiveness of the international community’s commitment to women’s rights. The study also provides an overview of women’s initiatives and activities in Afghanistan, and examines the potential contributions of Afghan women to the struggle for peaceful and democratic change in their country. It makes the case that women have the potential to foster religious and political moderation by providing social services and pioneering human rights education and reforms. Fulfilling that potential will depend upon the extent to which the international community encourages and supports it.