Women’s Participation in the Afghan Peace Process

A Case Study

Authored by: Shukria Azadmanesh and Ihsanullah Ghafoori

Categories: Conflict Prevention, Peace Support Operations
Sub-Categories: Countering Violent Extremism, De-escalation and Preventive Diplomacy, Democratization and Political Participation, Economic Participation, Peace Accords, Peacemaking, Political Transitions, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Transitional Justice
Country: Afghanistan
Region: South and Central Asia
Year: 2020
Citation: Azadmanesh, Shukria and Ihsanullah Ghafoori. "Women’s Participation in the Afghan Peace Process: A Case Study." United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. September 2020.

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Executive Summary

The study found that women’s participation in the peace efforts is vital to sustain peace in Afghanistan, and that it requires an active role from the government and the international community in supporting women’s seats at the table and their meaningful participation. Interviews reveal that so far the role of women has been mainly symbolic. However, women have found creative ways to maximise what they can do in the confines of the space where they operate. This includes basic awareness-raising about peace, but also engaging in direct talks with anti-government elements, the establishment of nongovernmental local councils for peace, and women’s participation in peace efforts and conflict resolution primarily in cases related to family violence and violence against women and other family matters. Women’s rights activists and civil society institutions conducted a range of workshops, conferences, and advocacy programs to promote women’s participation in national peace efforts, positively highlighted by respondents.

The study also found that the main barriers to women’s political participation was the profusion of society based violence against women, ideological barriers and cultural norms that have actively excluded women from political and social spaces and roles, male established and dominated political and social structures that confine women to symbolic positions, insecurity that adversely affects women’s ability to move freely, and traditional barriers such as low levels of literacy and poverty. Arguments used against women’s political participation are often religious, but findings from the interviews with religious scholars showed that there is no religious restriction to women participating in the peace efforts.

Many respondents expressed their fear and distrust about the Taliban and their concerns about the international community’s lack of commitment toward women’s rights and women’s participation in the peace process. Regardless of participation in many platforms for peace, like the National Jirga for peace, women still lack meaningful participation, decision-making power, and equal rights as men benefit from.